Shipwreck sanctuary could grow

The schooner Lucinda Van Valkenburg rests in 60 feet of water in Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary 
Photo Tane Casserley 

By Roxanne Werly - Up North Live

NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries is taking public comments on expansion plans for the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron.

An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is underway to consider the expansion plans.

The National Marine Sanctuaries office is soliciting public and stakeholder comment on the proposed action and its alternatives through May 25.

These comments will be used to help prepare the draft EIS. During the process to review the sanctuary's management plan in 2006, NOAA received comments expressing interest in expanding the sanctuary's boundary to include the waters adjacent to Alcona and Presque Isle counties.

Specifically, several local government and non-governmental organizations passed resolutions or submitted written letters of support for boundary expansion.

Additionally, in 2007, the Thunder Bay Sanctuary Advisory Council adopted a resolution supporting expanded boundaries.

"The sanctuary community has expressed an interested in expanding Thunder Bay sanctuary boundaries and we are listening," said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., NOAA administrator.

"This scoping process will allow us to develop some options and discuss what they could mean for the community. This is the beginning of the process and we appreciate input from all members of the community."

One of 14 sites managed by NOAA as part of the National Marine Sanctuary System, Thunder Bay is economically very important to a region that has seen the loss of other industries.

Through increased tourism and related business development, the sanctuary is working with various partners to encourage sustainable tourism and use of the Great Lakes and their history.

"Thunder Bay has had a tremendous impact on the economy of Northeast lower Michigan," said Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan.

"This sanctuary not only serves as a destination for tourists in the region, but it also stirs the imagination and connects people with the history of the Great Lakes as well as sanctuaries thousands of miles away.

I am pleased that NOAA is pursing the expansion of this vital asset as it will bring even more stories to life, piquing our curiosity, inspiring school children to new pursuits, and broadening our understanding of the Great Lakes and their rich history."

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Great Lakes NOAA

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