NOAA heads to Port to get input on sanctuary   « Back

Author: Kristyn Halbig-Ziehm
Source: Ozaukee Press

Nov. 18, 2015

Agency says residents’ feedback will shape plans for shipwreck preserve

Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will be in Port Washington on Wednesday, Nov. 18, to hear what residents think about a proposed marine sanctuary that would stretch from the city north to Two Rivers.

“We’re there to listen,” said Vernon Smith, NOAA’s national media coordinator. “We want to hear what the public has to say about this proposal.”

Information garnered by NOAA officials during a 6:30 p.m. meeting Wednesday, Nov. 18, will be used to refine the sanctuary concept, Smith said.

“Potentially it could help us figure out what it (the sanctuary) might look like, what types of programming it may offer,” he said. “There are a lot of things for people in the community to consider.

“This stage of the process is all about us listening to you and your neighbors. Sanctuary proposals evolve as they go along. We listen to what the public says, consider it and try to evaluate the options and possibilities.”

The meeting, which will be at the Wilson House in downtown Port, will begin with a 30-minute open house, followed by a program at 7 p.m. and public comments. It is expected to wrap up by 8:30 p.m.

Meetings on the proposed sanctuary will also be held next week in Manitowoc and Sheboygan.

Mayor Tom Mlada said he is hoping for a strong turnout, noting this will demonstrate support for the sanctuary. That might someday translate into a physical presence by the agency in Port, he added.

“The best way to demonstrate we’re the kind of community where a presence is warranted is through a strong showing,” he said.

After the meeting, Smith said, NOAA will draft an environmental statement that will fine tune the proposal. Following a public hearing on that document, the agency will compile a final environmental statement or management plan that will be reviewed by the public.

Only after that will NOAA make a final decision on the sanctuary designation.

“This is a several-year process,” Smith said.

The proposed sanctuary, a joint project between Port, Sheboygan, Manitowoc and Two Rivers, as well as the State of Wisconsin, would only be the second on Lake Michigan — the other is Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center in Alpena, Mich. — and the second freshwater sanctuary.

It would encompass 875 square miles containing 39 known shipwrecks, 15 of them listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The area contains 15 shipwrecks that are essentially intact and three with standing masts, a rarity in the Great Lakes.

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