A National Marine Sanctuary on Lake Ontario?

    By on May 25, 2016
    • The serene shoreline of Lake Ontario could be protected in the future by being designated as a National Marine Sanctuary. The City of Oswego, along with the counties of Jefferson, Oswego, Cayuga, and Wayne, are working together make it happen. But community support is crucial. Kyle D. Meddaugh | onePhoto

    • The bluffs along the south shore are one of Lake Ontario’s unique features, setting it apart from other lakeshore communities. Kyle D. Meddaugh | onePhoto

    • A map of the suggested area for the first National Marine Sanctuary being proposed on Lake Ontario.

    • The Bay Craft, recently discovered seven miles off the coast of Fair Haven.

    A Marine Sanctuary Could Be the Answer to Protecting the Shoreline, But Community Support is Crucial

    Suzanne LaSalle Fralick

    Lake Ontario offers many opportunities to residents and visitors alike. The interest in more research and exploration of those deep blue waters has recently peaked after the discovery of the Bay Craft, seven miles off the coast of Fair Haven. It could mean an increase in protection for the shoreline, and an increase in revenue for the lakeshore area.

    And it’s not just about research. Protecting the shores of Lake Ontario has become a concern of many. Keeping the delicate balance of the ecosystem that is in place is crucial to the survival of the integrity of the lakeshore. There now may be a solution.

    Have the south-eastern shore of the lake designated as a Marine Sanctuary. This is the first time in 20 years the application process has been available.

    What is a marine sanctuary?

    “National Marine Sanctuaries or “NMS” areas are designated by the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for research, education, and protection. NMS can only be designated for underwater, submerged areas within the oceans or Great Lakes. These are sites that contribute unique ecological, cultural, aesthetic, or recreational resources of national significance. They are selected for their opportunity to advance marine science, education, and conservation programs that support ecologic, economic, subsistence, and traditional uses.” According to the website, www.lakeontarionms.com.

    The idea of designating the southeastern shore of Lake Ontario has been in the works for a number of months now. The Town of Oswego, together with the counties of, Jefferson, Oswego, Cayuga and Wayne, started the process of having the southeastern region of Lake Ontario designated as an official Marine Sanctuary.

    Amy D’Angelo, Senior Planner and Grant Administrator for Wayne County, presented their case to the town supervisors, and the proposition was approved May 17. The next step is to prepare the proposal for presentation to the governor so the State of New York can submit, with documentation of community support, the proposal to the NOAA for the “All they are waiting on us now for are the support letters” said Amy D’Angelo, Senior Planner and Grant Administrator for Wayne County. They are hoping to get the information to the Governor’s Office by early June” she said. The next step is to keep things moving forward with an official submission of proposal to the NOAA by the end of June or mid-July of this year.

    “The more community support” said D’Angelo, “the more it will strengthen the application. There are several communities that are putting applications in.” Erie County is also applying for a sanctuary designation. “Just like any other program, there is a degree of competitiveness so it’s nice to show that our communities are in support and on board with it”. They may grant both, it could happen.

    And it could mean an economic boost to the area. Thousands of visitors have been drawn to neighboring Lake Huron’s Marine Sanctuary. As stated on the Thunder Bay website: “According to a regional 2005 study on total visitor spending, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary impacts $92 million in sales, $35.8 million in personal income to residents, $51.3 million in value added and 1,704 jobs.”

    In the case of Lake Ontario, the nomination focuses on historic and cultural resources, such as shipwrecks, archaeological sites, and marine resources of cultural significance to surrounding native communities.

    Being designated as a marine sanctuary doesn’t mean “off limits”. Quite the opposite. It means vast opportunities for exploration and growth, while still maintaining responsible and sustainable access, whereby protecting the integrity of the area.

    Did you know there are well over fifty ships below the surface of Lake Ontario?

    Over the last two hundred years the unpredictable waters of our Great Lake has seen its fair share of burials, from cargo ships to passenger ships trying to traverse the very cold, and very often choppy, unforgiving water. Those sunken treasures, some still waiting to be discovered, are amazingly ship-shape. Cold fresh waters provide the perfect conditions for the preservation of shipwrecks and artifacts.

    The Bay Craft, the oldest propeller driven steamship, which sank in November of 1862, was discovered by the team of Jim Kennard and Roger Pawlowski, last August. It was found just seven miles off the coast of Fair Haven. The team is anxious to do more research.

    Imagine being able to visit those areas, and learn even more about the history of the lake, with even more research and educational opportunities being provided. It could happen in a few years, perhaps sooner.

    Why is public support needed?

    It’s a two-step process to be designated as an NMS. First, the site has to be nominated through public involvement spanning a wide variety of interests and groups. There is federally required criteria and broad public support needed before it will be accepted by NOAA. After acceptance of the proposal by NOAA, the next step would be for NOAA to develop an environmental impact statement and management plan. Public involvement and hearings would be key in all parts of the process and could take years to complete. The processes are separate, however. Being nominated does not guarantee being designated as an NMS.

    The new NOAA policy is that they will accept nominations through a community based nomination process.

    The proposition, which passed on May 17, reads as follows:


    Mr. Spickerman presented the following:

    WHEREAS, Wayne County was approached by representatives of Oswego County regarding the possible designation of the portion of Lake Ontario that is adjacent to the participating counties as the Great Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary; and

    WHEREAS, the participating jurisdictions are the Counties of Jefferson, Oswego, Cayuga, and Wayne and the City of Oswego; and

    WHEREAS, formal announcement of the proposal was made on September 4, 2015; and

    WHEREAS for the first time in nearly 20 years the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is accepting nominations to add new National Marine Sanctuaries (NMS) to the 15 already established regions in the world.; and

    WHEREAS, the proposed Great Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary consists of a corridor that is one of the most historically significant geographic locations in the Great Lakes and the North American continent; and

    WHEREAS, the proposed Great Lake Ontario NMS will be focused solely on “submerged cultural resources,” such as shipwrecks, aircraft, and archaeological sites; and

    WHEREAS, the proposed NMS will not establish regulations on commercial and recreational fishing, shoreline development, or commercial shipping, nor establish fees or new restrictions on recreational diving; and

    WHEREAS, a NMS would supplement and significantly enhance recreational activities in this region, attracting many more travelers and improving the quality of life for residents; now, therefore, be it

    RESOLVED, that the Wayne County Board of Supervisors supports the designation of the Great Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary, and be it further

    RESOLVED, that the Clerk of Board of Supervisors is hereby authorized and directed to send a copy of this resolution to the NOAA National Marine sanctuary Program, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senator Michael F. Nozzolio, Assemblyman Robert C. Oaks, and the other municipalities joining us in this effort.

    If you are interested in showing your support in designating the south eastern shore of Lake Ontario as a National Marine Sancuary, visit www.lakeontarionms.com. There are several sample letters for you to use. There are also links available for you to submit questions to your individual county representatives.

    Join in on the conversation.