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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 12, 2012

Contact:

Keeley Belva, 301-713-3066
Stephanie Gandulla, 252-955-7225

NOAA Seeks Input on Possible Expansion
of Thunder Bay Sanctuary

NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries today announced it will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to consider possible expansion of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron. The agency 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 Senator 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."

The EIS is being prepared through a public process under the National Environmental Policy Act. Once the draft EIS is completed, it will be opened for public comment again before final action is taken. The initial scoping period for the draft EIS ends on May 25 and all comments must be submitted to NOAA by close of business on that date.

Three public scoping meetings are planned for the public to learn more about the proposal and submit comments. Meetings are scheduled for:

  • April 17, Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, 500 West Fletcher St. Alpena, Mich., 5:30 p.m.

  • April 18, Presque Isle District Library, 181 East Erie Street, Rogers City, Mich., 5:30 p.m.

  • April 19, Alcona County EMS Building, 2600 E. M-72, Harrisville, Mich., 5:30 p.m.
Comments may also be submitted via:
  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Submit electronic comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal with Docket Number NOAA-NOS-2012-0077.

  • Mail: Jeff Gray, Sanctuary Superintendent, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, 500 West Fletcher Street, Alpena, MI 49707.
For more information on the EIS, visit the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary website at http://thunderbay.noaa.gov/, or contact Ellen Brody, Great Lakes regional coordinator, at 734-741-2270.

In 2000, NOAA designated the 448-square mile Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which is jointly managed by NOAA and the state of Michigan. The sanctuary's mission is to preserve nationally-significant shipwrecks and other maritime heritage resources through resource protection, education and research. Well-preserved by Lake Huron's cold, fresh water, these shipwrecks span 150 years of Great Lakes maritime history.

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