NOAA 99-R406
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Matt Stout
6/25/99

FINAL PROPOSAL RELEASED FOR THE THUNDER BAY NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released its final proposal to designate Thunder Bay and surrounding waters on Lake Huron as the 13th National Marine Sanctuary.

The proposal, detailed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement and Management Plan for the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, includes a five-year management plan and draft final regulations as well as responds to public comments received during the sanctuary designation process. The plan will be mailed to the proposed sanctuary's mailing list and also made available to the public.

Thunder Bay contains a nationally important collection of historic shipwrecks that represents maritime heritage of regional, national and international significance. This would be the first national marine sanctuary to focus solely upon a large collection of underwater cultural resources. Thunder Bay would also be the first sanctuary to be designated in the Great Lakes.

"Thunder Bay's historic maritime significance would be a great asset to the country's national marine sanctuary system," said Ellen Brody, project coordinator for the proposed sanctuary. "NOAA is very excited about the potential inclusion of Thunder Bay into this system."

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary would establish a partnership among the local community, the state of Michigan and NOAA to provide long-term protection and management for the site's underwater cultural resources.

"NOAA has worked very closely with the state and local governments, communities and organizations in the area during the entire designation process. The Sanctuary Advisory Council, in particular, has provided invaluable input into this project. We are eager to continue our partnership with the local communities and the state to preserve the impressive collection of underwater cultural resources in the area," said Brody.

National marine sanctuary designation would bring national attention to this site and would establish research, monitoring and education programs to improve public awareness and appreciation for the site's culturally-significant resources. Management of the sanctuary would be guided by the advice of a Sanctuary Advisory Council, representing local and regional interests.

NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program celebrates 27 years of preserving our nation's special marine environments. Today, 12 sanctuaries protect coral reefs, open ocean environments, kelp forests, historic shipwrecks, and countless species of marine plants and animals. In addition, marine sanctuaries help communities balance long-term protection of the marine environments with continued use and enjoyment. More information on the National Marine Sanctuary Program is available on the Internet at www.sanctuaries.nos.noaa.gov.

Publication of the FEIS/MP starts a 30-day "cooling off" period. Any written comments or questions may be addressed to Ellen Brody at NOAA, 2205 Commonwealth Blvd., Ann Arbor, MI 48105-2945 (telephone: 734/741-2270). Following this 30-day period, NOAA will publish the final regulations in the Federal Register, which starts a 45-day period of continuous Congressional session. Assuming no objection by the Governor, the Sanctuary will be designated, most likely in late 1999 or early 2000.

Copies of the Final Environmental Impact Statement and Management Plan are available at the following locations:

Alcona County: Alcona County Review lobby, 111 Lake Street, Harrisville, MI

Presque Isle County: Presque Isle County Advance lobby, 104 South Third,
Rogers City, MI

Alpena County: Chamber of Commerce Building, 235 West Chisholm, Alpena, MI, and The Alpena News lobby, 130 Park Place, Alpena, MI