Officials ask Evers to revisit marine sanctuary plan

Port mayor says he’s hopeful that governor will support shipwreck preserve that was shelved by Walker
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

Port Washington Mayor Marty Becker and Tourism Executive Director Kathy Tank, along with officials from Sheboygan, Manitowoc and Two Rivers, met with Gov. Tony Evers in Madison last week in an effort to resume the process of creating a national shipwreck sanctuary that would stretch along the Lake Michigan Coast from Ozaukee County north to Two Rivers.

Becker said he was encouraged by the meeting, noting Evers “seemed very receptive.”

“The governor, I thought, was very informed on what our goals are,” Becker said. “He asked some very good questions, asked what we see as the benefits of the sanctuary.”

And, he said, Evers asked what he needed to do to make the sanctuary work, Becker said.

Tank echoed many of Becker’s comments, adding that Evers told the group that he had been following the process for a couple of years but wanted to talk to the people who had been working on the proposal.

“I was very impressed,” Tank said. “He’s obviously looked at the issues.

“Everybody came out of it with a very positive feeling.”

Officials from the four communities had worked on the proposal for a national marine sanctuary in the area for years, and believed it was just months from being approved by the federal government when former Gov. Scott Walker last year abruptly withdrew the state’s application for the sanctuary.

Becker said that after Evers took office, municipal leaders in the affected communities wrote to Evers asking him to reconsider Walker’s decision.

“We got a meeting with the governor right away,” Becker said. “He was very receptive.”

The proposed sanctuary would have been the second on the Great Lakes — the other one is Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center in Alpena, Mich.

The proposed Lake Michigan sanctuary, which would encompass 1,075 square miles of Lake Michigan, would include 37 known shipwrecks, and officials believe there could be as many as 80 others waiting to be discovered. Fifteen of these vessels are preserved virtually intact, officials said, adding 18 of the known wrecks are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Ten of the known shipwrecks are in the waters off Ozaukee County, with as many as 11 undiscovered wrecks believed to be off the county’s shore.

Officials have touted the sanctuary’s impact on tourism and the local economy, as well as education and community vitality.

Becker said he came away from the meeting believing the sanctuary may soon be back on track.

“I think there’s a good chance,” he said, adding, “I personally don’t see how it would affect anything negatively. 

“Something like this shouldn’t be political.”

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