Proposed Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary
In April 2019, in response to a community-based sanctuary nomination, NOAA announced its intent to designate a new national marine sanctuary in New York's eastern Lake Ontario. With input from the public, stakeholders and in consultation with the state of New York, NOAA is publishing this draft environmental impact statement and draft management plan to designate a national marine sanctuary in eastern Lake Ontario and the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River.
With this designation, NOAA would manage, research, interpret, and improve public access to a nationally significant collection of maritime heritage resources, including historic shipwrecks. The proposed sanctuary would celebrate the area's unique history and heritage and provide a national stage for promoting tourism and recreation. NOAA would provide opportunities for people to learn about and explore the maritime landscape above and beneath the waves.
NOAA is considering two possible boundaries for the proposed sanctuary. The Alternative 1 boundary encompasses a portion of eastern Lake Ontario and a segment of the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River, while Alternative 2 only encompasses the same portion of eastern Lake Ontario. The same proposed management plan and regulations would apply to both alternatives. NOAA has not selected a preferred alternative and is requesting public comment on a boundary for the proposed sanctuary.
The public comment period ran from July 8 and closed on September 10. Public comments can be viewed at: https://www.regulations.gov/document/NOAA-NOS-2021-0050-0001/comment. The next step in the designation process will be drafting a proposed rule.
Sanctuary Advisory Council
NOAA established a sanctuary advisory council to help inform the designation process and focus stakeholder participation. The council passed a resolution on November 19 transmitting to NOAA its ideas for a draft management plan.
About the Nomination
In January 2017, the state of New York, the city of Oswego, and four counties (Oswego, Jefferson, Wayne, and Cayuga) submitted a nomination for the proposed Great Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary to be added to NOAA's inventory for potential designation. New York nominated the area to protect and increase awareness of a nationally significant collection of shipwrecks; to foster partnerships with education and research groups; and to increase opportunities for tourism and recreation as part of the regional Blue Economy.
NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary System
The 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.