ALPENA, Michigan (October 7, 2000) -- The designation of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve, the nation's first Great Lakes sanctuary and the first sanctuary in 25 years based solely on historic preservation, was announced today in Alpena, Mich., by Michigan Governor John Engler and U.S. Commerce Secretary Norman Mineta.
The new 448 square-mile sanctuary and underwater preserve will protect an estimated 116 historically significant shipwrecks, including the Isaac M. Scott, a steel-hulled propeller driven vessel lost in the "Great Storm of 1913. That storm -- 16 hours of 35-foot waves and gusts of near-hurricane wind speeds which sank 11 vessels -- has been described as the most disastrous storm in recorded history to sweep the Great Lakes region.
“Michigan is inviting NOAA to join with us as and equal partner in protecting and enhancing the public value of these maritime treasures,” said Governor Engler. “This unique partnership will enhance research and educational opportunities to further our understanding of how the Great Lakes have influenced our development as a State and a Nation.”
"Today’s designation marks our commitment to press forward with the recognition of our maritime heritage within the national system of sanctuaries," said Secretary Mineta. This effort furthers the Administration's ocean exploration initiatives and President's executive order on marine protected areas, as we return to the sea and the Great Lakes to locate and identify our own history.”
The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve is the thirteenth in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Ocean Service's network of national marine sanctuaries, and represents the beginning of a new partnership between NOAA and the state of Michigan to protect cultural resources.
More than a century of Great Lakes maritime heritage lies below the waters of Lake Huron in Thunder Bay. From wooden schooners to steel-hulled steamers, a rich array of artifacts from nineteenth century travel and commerce still remain on the bottom of Lake Huron. Many of these nationally significant shipwrecks have been preserved by the lake's cold, fresh water and are in an exceptional state of preservation.
In an innovative partnership, NOAA's National Ocean Service and the state of Michigan will jointly manage the sanctuary and underwater preserve through the creation of a Joint Management Committee. Priorities for the first five years of operation include conducting an archaeological survey of Thunder Bay's shipwrecks, installing a mooring buoy system, establishing underwater video links from shipwrecks to school classrooms, and examining the potential for a Maritime Heritage Center.
“Today we are opening a new era in undersea exploration and historical preservation," said Elgie Holstein, senior advisor to the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The Thunder Bay Sanctuary becomes the 13th National Marine Sanctuary under NOAA's National Ocean Service. The other sanctuaries include sites off the states of California, Washington, Texas/Louisiana, Florida, Massachusetts, Georgia and American Samoa. The sanctuary program is committed to conserving, protecting and enhancing the biodiversity, ecological integrity, and cultural legacy of the nation.
For more information on national marine sanctuaries and the designation
of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve, visit
Editor's Note: Photos are available on www.doc.gov
For information, contact Ellen Brody at 734-741-2270, Karen Brubeck
at 360-394-8330, or Dennis Schornack at 517-335-6847.
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