SHEBOYGAN — Officials, business leaders and tourism executives have reacted with disbelief and disappointment to Governor Scott Walker’s action rescinding his 2014 nomination of the area of Lake Michigan off their communities to be American’s newest National Marine Sanctuary.
The entire sanctuary designation process began with that nomination, which the Governor himself had submitted in November 2014 on behalf of the citizens of the State of Wisconsin. The nomination was officially selected by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to begin the Sanctuary Designation process and was perceived to be well on its way to Final Designation in late 2018 or early 2019. Once designated, the Wisconsin-Lake Michigan National Marine Sanctuary would become only the second Sanctuary in the Great Lakes and the 15th Sanctuary nationwide.
“A National Marine Sanctuary in our Mid-Lake Region will be a economic bonus for our four communities and the region and will serve as a tremendous source of pride and celebration for our entire State of Wisconsin,” said Chad Pelishek, City of Sheboygan Director of Planning & Development.
The Marine Sanctuary would have included the cities of Sheboygan, Port Washington, Manitowoc and Two Rivers. The regional nomination as submitted to NOAA detailed a proposed 875-square mile area. It would have contain 39 known shipwrecks, including the two oldest shipwrecks in Wisconsin and 15 intact shipwrecks (three with standing masts). Fifteen of the 39 shipwrecks are on the National Register of Historic Places. NOAA would assist with location, identification, and preservation of another 80 or so expected shipwrecks.
“We believe a Sanctuary Designation is truly fitting,” stated Leslie Kohler, Chairwoman of the Board of Directors for the Sailing Education Association of Sheboygan (SEAS). “Our marine environment is enormously rich in historical, cultural, and archaeological treasures, and a National Marine Sanctuary will afford greater opportunity for discovery, protection, and preservation of those unique treasures.”