Oct. 05, 2015

Vernon Smith, 301-713-7248
Keeley Belva, 301-643-6463

NOAA: Areas in Wisconsin and Maryland identified as possible national marine sanctuaries

Agency seeks public comment on Lake Michigan, Potomac River maritime heritage proposals

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.

During the 2015 Our Ocean Conference in Valparaiso, Chile, President Barack Obama today announced that, for the first time since 2000, two new national marine sanctuaries have been identified by NOAA for possible designation under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act. 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.

Mallows Bay in Maryland 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.

"For the first time in twenty years, communities can bring forth proposals for consideration to be added to our nation’s system of marine sanctuaries," said Holly Bamford, Ph.D., assistant NOAA administrator for the National Ocean Service performing the duties of the assistant secretary of commerce for conservation and management. “The Mallows Bay-Potomac River and Wisconsin-Lake Michigan nominations demonstrate this new bottom-up approach, which ensures communities lead in identifying and protecting their valuable coastal and marine areas. We look forward to hearing from the public as these two nominations go through the process.”

The public is invited to submit comments until Jan. 15 through the Federal eRulemaking Portal, (docket number for Mallows Bay-Potomac River is NOAA-NOS-2015-0111 and docket number for Wisconsin-Lake Michigan is NOAA-NOS-2015-0112). An official notice will be published in the Federal Register later this week.

Comments may also be mailed if postmarked by Jan. 15.

Comments on Mallows Bay-Potomac River should be sent to:
Paul Orlando
Chesapeake Bay Regional Coordinator
ONMS Northeast and Great Lakes Region
c/o NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office
410 Severn Ave, Suite 207-A
Annapolis, MD 21403

Comments on Wisconsin-Lake Michigan should be sent to:
Ellen Brody
Great Lakes Regional Coordinator
ONMS Northeast and Great Lakes Region
4840 South State Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48108-9719

NOAA will also be hosting public meetings to answer questions and gather public input at the following locations:

November 4, 6:30 – 9:00 p.m.
La Plata--Charles County Government Building Auditorium
200 Baltimore Street
La Plata, Maryland

November 10, 6:30 – 9:00 p.m.
Annapolis Maritime Museum
723 Second Street
Annapolis, Maryland

November 17, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Wisconsin Maritime Museum
75 Maritime Drive
Manitowoc, Wisconsin

November 18, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Wilson House
200 N. Franklin Street
Port Washington, Wisconsin

November 19, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan,
Main Building, Wombat Room (Room 2114)
1 University Drive
Sheboygan, Wisconsin

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.

More information on the two proposed sites can be found at

Additional photos can be found at

NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries serves as trustee for a system of 14 marine protected areas, encompassing more than 170,000 square miles of America’s ocean and Great Lakes waters. Through active research, management, and public engagement, national marine sanctuaries sustain healthy environments that are the foundation for thriving communities and stable economies.

NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook,link leaves government site Twitterlink leaves government site, Instagramlink leaves government site and our other social media channels.