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Areas in Wisconsin and Maryland identified as possible national marine sanctuaries

Left: Aerial view of Mallows Bay (Photo: Don Shomette). Right: A diver swims over the two masted schooner, Walter B. Allen.
Left: Aerial view of Mallows Bay (Photo: Don Shomette). Right: A diver swims over the two masted schooner, Walter B. Allen.

Today at the 2015 Our Ocean Conference in Valparaiso, Chile, President Barack Obama announced that, for the first time since 2000, two new marine areas have been identified by NOAA for possible designation as national marine sanctuaries. NOAA is now seeking comment on the proposals.

In Wisconsin, an 875-square mile area of Lake Michigan, with waters extending from Port Washington to Two Rivers received tremendous support from the community, and was identified for possible designation. The nominated area contains a collection of 39 known shipwrecks, 15 of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In Maryland, Mallows Bay-Potomac River is a 14-square mile area of the tidal Potomac River, adjacent to Charles County. Nearly 200 vessels spanning from the Revolutionary War through the present are found in the area, including the remains of the largest "Ghost Fleet" of World War I wooden steamships built for the U.S. Emergency Fleet, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Both sites were nominated as a national marine sanctuary through the sanctuary nomination process with broad community support.

The public is invited to submit comments until Jan. 15 through the Federal eRulemaking Portal, www.regulations.gov (docket number for Mallows Bay is NOAA-NOS-2015-0111 and docket number for Wisconsin is NOAA-NOS-2015-0112).

Following this comment period, NOAA will develop a draft environmental impact statement, draft management plan and potential regulations for each site, which will then be available for public review. After reviewing those comments, NOAA will then make a final decision on the proposed action.

President Obama's address to the 2015 Our Ocean Conference in Valparaiso, Chile.