Extending from Wisconsin’s Port Washington to Two Rivers, this area of Wisconsin-Lake Michigan may become one of our newest national marine sanctuaries. It’s one of two sites – Mallows Bay is the other – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is currently evaluating for designation based on a community-driven nomination. This is a landmark moment: these are the first new sanctuaries under consideration by the federal government in 15 years. The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation supports the decision to protect Wisconsin-Lake Michigan and you can raise your voice with us.
Lake Michigan is a destination combining significant marine heritage, recreation and exploration opportunities. The site is home to 39 known shipwrecks, with the potential for more to be found. Fifteen of these vessels are preserved almost completely intact due to the Great Lakes’ cold water conditions. Three have standing masts, a rarity among sunken wrecks. Research indicates that the site has over 100 reported vessel losses, indicating that more wrecks lie waiting to be discovered, explored, and protected.
For some, these wrecks are family legends and local lore tied to their ancestry and community in addition to their national historic importance. These hallowed waters harbor vessels lost to the treacherous waters and weather of the lakes. For others, they serve as popular locations for diving, boating, fishing, recreation, and heritage tourism contributing revenue to the local economy.
The State of Wisconsin submitted the nomination for Wisconsin-Lake Michigan in 2014 on behalf of the communities of Port Washington, Sheboygan, Manitowoc and Two Rivers. The nomination focuses on protecting and interpreting these nationally significant shipwrecks, fostering partnerships for education and research purposes and increasing opportunities for tourism and economic development.
The Foundation supported the coalition’s efforts including organizing a regional workshop in 2014. This workshop brought together key leaders from the region and fostered relationships that led to the submission of the nomination. Tom Mlada, Mayor of Port Washington, was a featured speaker at Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2015 talking about the importance and impact sanctuaries have on the local economy and community. In Washington, D.C., the Foundation has engaged members of Congress to support the protection of this incredible site.
“Once it becomes an official sanctuary, Lake Michigan-Wisconsin will afford a profound opportunity for discovery, protection, and preservation of the enormous wealth of historical, cultural, and archaeological treasures found in the special place that is Lake Michigan – and enable our communities to connect our residents and visitors with these treasures. In enhancing the recognition of the Great Lakes’ significance to Wisconsin’s history and the sense of place our citizens value so deeply, a Sanctuary will bring people to the water, and the water’s treasures to them.”