NOAA 2004-R492
Contact: Jefferson J. Gray

NOAA News Releases 2004
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Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve broke ground today on a 20,000-square-foot facility in Alpena, Mich., that will preserve and highlight the maritime heritage of the Great Lakes and the shipwrecks of Michigan’s Thunder Bay. The Sanctuary is managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the State of Michigan. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

When completed, the facility will feature a maritime heritage “discovery center” featuring over 8,000 square-feet of exhibits on the Great Lakes, shipwrecks, archaeology and maritime history. The center will also have an auditorium for showing films and live video feeds from Thunder Bay shipwrecks, an archaeological conservation laboratory, and an education resource room.

“The new center will be a national destination that will allow people of all ages to share in the discovery, exploration and preservation of the Great Lakes’ historic shipwrecks and rich maritime past,” said Sanctuary Manager Jefferson J. Gray. “In addition, the laboratories, archives, dockage for research vessels and a field station for visiting scientists will make the center a regional research facility, not just for historians and archaeologists, but for other scientists working to ensure the health of the Great Lakes.”

The facility will be housed at the former Fletcher Paper Mill, a historic property that will be renovated with an initial investment of $2.5 million from NOAA. The agency signed a 20-year lease with the building’s owner, Alpena Marc, L.L.C., in September 2004.

Located in Lake Huron, the 448-square-mile Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve was established in 2000 to protect an estimated 200 historically significant shipwrecks ranging from nineteenth century wooden side-wheelers to twentieth century steel-hulled steamers. The sanctuary brings to the American public the lore of Great Lakes maritime heritage through exploration, education and research.

The NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program seeks to increase the public awareness of America’s maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, the Sanctuary Program manages 13 national marine sanctuaries and one coral reef ecosystem reserve that encompass more than 150,000 square miles of America’s ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.

The NOAA Ocean Service manages the Sanctuary Program and is dedicated to exploring, understanding, conserving and restoring the nation’s coasts and oceans. The National Ocean Service balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats and mitigating coastal hazards.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research on weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation’s coastal and marine resources.

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