MANITOWOC, Wis. (AP) — Leaders of four communities along the shores of Lake Michigan say a national marine sanctuary would have a large economic impact on the region’s tourism.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday it would begin the designation process for the proposed Lake Michigan National Marine Sanctuary off the shores of Two Rivers, Manitowoc, Sheboygan and Port Washington.
Manitowoc Mayor Justin Nickels says the sanctuary would be a major accomplishment for his city.
“I think right now what we need is community support. We need the community to understand how major of an impact having a national marine sanctuary here would have on our area in terms of tourism, in terms of dollars. It would be massive,” Nickels said.
The sanctuary would include 39 known shipwrecks, including the two oldest in Wisconsin. Fifteen of the 39 shipwrecks are on the National Register of Historic Places, according to HTR Media.
Community leaders anticipate many more divers would come to explore the underwater wrecks, along with more kayakers, snorkelers and those with an interest in nautical history.
“Our marine environment is enormously rich in historical, cultural and archaeological treasures, and a national marine sanctuary will afford greater opportunity for discovery, protection and preservation of those unique treasures,” said Two Rivers City Manager Greg Buckley.
The Lake Michigan sanctuary would be the second in the Great Lakes and 14th in the United States. NOAA last designated a sanctuary in 2000.
NOAA will begin working on an environmental impact study and sanctuary management plan. Designation could take about a year to complete.