City officials will write letter of support asking NOAA to designate area between Port and Two Rivers for project
The Port Washington Harbor Commission on Monday threw its support behind an effort to create a marine sanctuary that would stretch from Port to Two Rivers.
Commission members agreed to write a letter of support asking that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration designate the 875-square-mile stretch of Lake Michigan between the two
communities as a sanctuary.
Mayor Tom Mlada said he is seeking letters of support from community groups, residents and other interested parties to support the sanctuary application.
“We want to show there is broad-based support for this,” he said, adding the city will hold a public forum on the proposal in October.
Commission members asked a few questions following a presentation on the proposed sanctuary by Mayor Tom Mlada, who attended an anniversary celebration recently at Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center in Alpena, Mich.
Of NOAA’s 14 existing sanctuaries, Thunder Bay is the only one on the Great Lakes, Mlada noted.
“It literally and in many ways, transformed the community,” he said, noting the center brings in an estimated 80,000 visitors annually. “It’s difficult to overstate it — it would mean extraordinary things for us.”
Mlada said a draft application for a local sanctuary is being completed by officials from four communities that would be part of it — Port, Sheboygan, Manitowoc and Two Rivers — and is expected to be forwarded to Ellen Brody, NOAA’s regional coordinator for the Great Lakes and northeast region by Oct. 3.
A completed application is expected to be submitted to NOAA by Oct. 10, he added.
The application for a Lake Michigan sanctuary is likely to be met favorably, Mlada said, noting he was approached at the celebration by NOAA’s national director.
“He pulled me aside and asked me, ‘Where is your application, we’re waiting for your application,’” Mlada said.
When it was first envisioned, Mlada noted, the proposed sanctuary was seen as being headquartered in one community.
Now, it is being envisioned as a collaborative work between four communities, each of which would have a presence by NOAA, he said, adding that a headquarters will likely be placed in one community.
“Each community will have some things,” he said. “Even if we didn’t get the main office here, the impact would be significant here.”
If approved, this would be the first regional sanctuary for NOAA, Mlada added.
The sanctuary being proposed by Port Washington and the other communities would center around the many shipwrecks in the area.
Within the proposed sanctuary borders, there are 33 known shipwrecks, including the two oldest in Wisconsin, Mlada said. Seven of those wrecks are not far from Port Washington, and three are just north of the Ozaukee County line.