Great Lakes Region

NOAA Initiates Sanctuary Designation Process in Wisconsin

For the first time since 2000, two national marine sanctuaries have been identified by NOAA for possible designation under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act; the two proposed sanctuaries reside in Wisconsin and Maryland.

Wisconsin Sanctuary

The state of Wisconsin submitted a nomination in December of 2014 to be added to NOAA’s network of national marine sanctuaries. The nomination focused on protecting and interpreting the collection of shipwrecks, creating partnerships with educational and research partners, and furthering opportunities for tourism and economic development. The 875-square mile area of Lake Michigan encompasses a collection of 39 known shipwrecks, 15 of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Interestingly, 14 of the shipwrecks are almost completely intact, with three vessels containing standing masts. Furthermore, the area includes Wisconsin’s two oldest known shipwrecks. Archival and archaeological research indicates that the proposed sanctuary also includes 123 reported vessel losses.

Figure 1: The schooner, Home, is one of the oldest shipwrecks discovered in Wisconsin (Credit: Tamara Thomsen, Wisconsin Historical Society).

What Happens Next?

The public comment period closed on January 15, 2016. Based on that public input, NOAA will develop a draft environmental impact statement, management plan and potential regulations for Wisconsin, which will be available for the public to review. NOAA will review the final set of comments and a final decision will be made. The process will likely take two to three years.

Where Can I Learn More?

Click here for more information on the proposed Wisconsin site, and here for more information on the proposed Maryland site.


Press Release
Designation Process
Nomination Process
Media Resources


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