FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Connie Barclay
Today a nationally significant collection of shipwrecks in Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve in Alpena, Mich., will be protected by an agreement reached by the Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management and Michigan Governor John Engler. This action follows an executive order issued by President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore on Memorial Day weekend calling for a national system of marine protected areas.
"The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary will give a voice to the dozens of shipwrecks resting in its cold waters. With this newest marine sanctuary, scuba divers, students and historians will be able to learn about an important chapter of the Great Lakes' maritime and economic history," said Secretary of Commerce, William Daley.
Thunder Bay is the 13th national marine sanctuary. NOAA is designating Thunder Bay because of its' historical significance and the collection of over 100 shipwrecks, including the Issac M. Scott. A steel-hulled propeller driven vessel, the Issac M. Scott was one of eleven vessels lost in the "great storm of 1913". That storm has been described as the most disastrous storm that has ever swept the great lakes region.
For the past six months, NOAA and Governor Engler's office have engaged in detailed discussions on various aspects of the proposed sanctuary including the size and name, funding levels, and staffing arrangements. NOAA agreed to a number of changes in response to the state's concerns. A NOAA/state joint management committee will be created to ensure equal governance of the sanctuary/preserve. NOAA agreed to reduce the size of the boundary by almost half, from 808 square miles to 448 square miles. NOAA also agreed to the name "Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve" to reflect the state underwater preserve. The state has agreed to commit one million dollars over a five-year period.
"A close and ongoing partnership between NOAA, the state of Michigan and local communities will ensure that this sanctuary/preserve will be a success and a cultural resource for future generations." said Jeff Benoit, director of NOAA's Office of Coastal and Resource Management. "I would like to thank members of the Thunder Bay communities who put considerable time and effort into the designation process. Their input was critical to crafting a viable proposal for a Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The project would not have progressed to this point without their assistance."
In response to state and sanctuary advisory council concerns, NOAA had previously agreed to other "safeguards" that were reflected in the final environmental impact statement, published in 1999. In particular, after an initial five-year period, providing an opportunity for both parties to determine the success of the partnership, NOAA will re-propose the sanctuary/preserve reflecting mutual concerns. NOAA also agreed to obtain approval from the governor on changes to the scope of management, promulgation of emergency regulations, and imposition of user fees.
In terms of next steps, NOAA will publish the final regulations in the Federal Register, and the sanctuary/preserve will be designated after a four month congressional and state review.
The mission of the National
Marine Sanctuary Program is to conserve, protect and enhance
the bio-diversity, ecological integrity, and/or cultural legacy
of selected marine and Great Lakes areas.