Proposed Designation of
Lake Erie Quadrangle
National Marine Sanctuary

NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries is considering designating a new national marine sanctuary in Lake Erie, adjacent to Pennsylvania, and the public is invited to participate in the first step of the process. Erie County, Pennsylvania submitted a nomination in 2015, and NOAA is now considering sanctuary designation to protect the region's maritime heritage resources, including a nationally significant collection of shipwrecks. As part of the designation process, NOAA will establish a local Sanctuary Advisory Council.

About the Area Under Consideration

The proposed Lake Erie Quadrangle National Marine Sanctuary would encompass approximately 740 square miles of Pennsylvania's Lake Erie waters, from the shoreline to the Canadian border. The approximately 75 miles of proposed sanctuary shoreline along Erie County contain six townships, two boroughs, and the city of Erie. The nomination proposes to exclude the Port of Erie from the sanctuary boundaries to ensure compatible use with shipping and other commercial activities.

Map of the proposed Lake Erie Quadrangle national marine sanctuary
Area proposed for Lake Erie Quadrangle National Marine Sanctuary. Credit: NOAA

This area represents a historically and culturally rich region where the long relationship between human activity and the maritime environment has created meaning and a sense of place, which is expressed and preserved in a wide variety of maritime cultural resources, from sacred places and cultural practices, to lighthouses and historic shipwrecks. Together, these tangible and intangible elements form a rich maritime cultural landscape. Lake Erie hosted one of the busiest inland waterways of the mid-19th century. Pennsylvania supported the Great Lakes' largest commercial fishing fleet during the 19th century, some of the earliest shipbuilding on the Great Lakes, and major naval shipyards during the War of 1812.

philip d. armour at sea
Built in 1889, the Philip D. Armour foundered in a gale while being towed on Nov. 13, 1915, northwest of Presque Isle Light, Lake Erie. Enroute from Ashtabula, Ohio, to Welland, Ontario, with a cargo of coal, the wooden barge and former steamer drifted onto a shoal and sank. Credit: Kenneth Thro Collection at University of Wisconsin-Superior (Thunder Bay Research Collection)

Nearly every type of vessel that operated on the Great Lakes during the 19th and 20th centuries  is represented in the area being considered for sanctuary designation. Based on historical records, 196 vessels may have sunk within the Pennsylvania waters of Lake Erie, and 35 of these shipwrecks have been identified. The known shipwrecks span from the 1838 steamboat Chesapeake to speedboats, tugs, barges, and workboats lost before 1940. The collection includes schooners, brigs, and barks; barges and schooner barges; dredges and sand suckers; fishing tugs and trawlers; and sidewheel steamboats and propellers. This area also includes the potential for submerged prehistoric sites and historic properties that may be of religious and cultural significance to Indigenous nations and tribes.

the u.s. brig niagara in transit with it's sails open
The U.S. Brig Niagara, home-ported in Erie, Pennsylvania, is a reconstruction of Oliver Hazard Perry's relief flagship during the Battle of Lake Erie. Credit: VisitErie

If designated, NOAA's activities would complement the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's efforts to preserve and interpret the area's importance, including its collection of nationally significant historic shipwrecks and other underwater cultural resources. With this designation, NOAA could:

  • Use its research and monitoring assets to further locate, document, and monitor the area's significant cultural resources.
  • Provide a national stage for promoting heritage tourism and recreation, which has the potential to increase economic opportunities in local coastal communities.
  • Expand education and outreach activities to build public knowledge of and appreciation for Great Lakes maritime cultural heritage and ties to past and present uses.
  • Prevent damage to irreplaceable historical sites by promoting the responsible use of sanctuary resources.
aerial of the pennsylvania shore line; the u.s. brig niagara is dock next to the bicentenial tower
The Bicentennial Tower is an observation tower in Erie, Pennsylvania that features panoramic views of Lake Erie, Presque Isle State Park, and downtown Erie. Credit: VisitErie

Public Scoping

The public is invited to an open process to share their views or provide any additional supporting information on the proposed sanctuary designation. This is also an opportunity for the public to learn about the sanctuary proposal. Should designation proceed, scoping comments will assist NOAA in the development of sanctuary designation documents, including a draft environmental impact statement, draft management plan, and proposed rulemaking. 

While NOAA will consider all relevant comments during scoping, the agency is seeking input on the following specific topics:

  • Boundary alternatives for the proposed sanctuary.
  • The location, nature, and value of the cultural and historical resources in the area under consideration. 
  • Specific threats to these resources.
  • Information on the Indigenous heritage of the area.
  • The potential socioeconomic, cultural, and biological impacts resulting from designation as a national marine sanctuary.
  • The non-regulatory actions NOAA should prioritize within its draft management plan for the proposed sanctuary.
  • The regulatory framework most appropriate for management of the proposed sanctuary.
  • The benefits to the economy of the region, including promoting sustainable tourism and recreation.
  • A permanent name for the proposed sanctuary.

Submitting Comments

The public can comment on the proposed action May 19, 2023 to July 18, 2023. Comments may be submitted by any one of the following methods: 

Public Meetings

NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries will gather public input through virtual and in-person meetings on the dates listed below. Individuals who plan on providing oral comments during the virtual public meetings should register in advance for the meetings using the links below. In order to provide oral public comment during the virtual public meetings, participants must join the webinar online. Participants can sign up to speak by typing "public comment sign up" and their name in the webinar question box at any point before public comment begins. Oral public comments are limited to three minutes.

Note to All Participants

NOAA will keep this website current with meeting information. The meetings will be audio recorded, including the public comment section, for the purposes of accurately developing meeting minutes. All public comments received, including any associated names, will be captured and included in the meeting minutes transcript, will be public, and will be maintained by NOAA as part of its administrative record. All comments will be publically available via (docket number is NOAA-NOS-2023-0039). NOAA may end a virtual or in-person meeting before the end time if all participants have concluded their oral comments.

In-person public meeting 1

Date and Time: Wednesday, June 21, 2023, 6:30 - 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: Erie, PA
Address: Erie County Public Library - Blasco
H.O. Hirt Auditorium
160 East Front Street
Erie, PA 16507

Virtual public meeting 1

Date and Time: Tuesday, June 27, 2023, 2:00 - 3:30 p.m. ET

Virtual public meeting 2

Date and Time: , June 28, 2023, 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. ET

Submit comments online

Submit all electronic public comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal, The docket number is NOAA-NOS-2023-0039. Click the "Comment Now!" icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.

Submit comments by mail

Ellen Brody
Great Lakes Regional Coordinator
NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
4840 South State Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48108–9719

Please note the docket number (NOAA-NOS-2023-0039) at the top of your comment.

For more information, contact:

Ellen Brody
Great Lakes Regional Coordinator
NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
4840 South State Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48108–9719

NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary System

NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries serves as the trustee for a network of underwater parks  encompassing more than 620,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters from Washington state to the Florida Keys, and from Lake Huron to American Samoa. The network includes a system of 15 national marine sanctuaries and Papahānaumokuākea and Rose Atoll marine national monuments. Through the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, NOAA can identify, designate, and protect areas of the marine and Great Lakes environment that have special national significance.

national marine sanctuary system map