NOAA releases draft NMS plan – Coastal counties onboard with Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary proposal

WATERTOWN — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is looking for public comment on its plan to create a marine sanctuary in the eastern Lake Ontario basin and possibly into the St. Lawrence River.

NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries on Thursday released its proposed national marine sanctuary on Lake Ontario at The “Underwater National Park” would highlight upstate New York’s unique maritime heritage and provide a national stage for promoting the region’s tourism and recreational opportunities.

NOAA is proposing to designate up to a 1,786-square-mile area of Lake Ontario and the Thousand Islands region adjacent to Jefferson, Oswego, St. Lawrence, Cayuga and Wayne counties as a sanctuary area. The designation would create a bridge for NOAA to help pilot and fund education, tourism and recreation initiatives primarily surrounding the dozens of shipwrecks in the proposed area.

One alternative being proposed would encompass the full 1,786 square miles, extending from about the Monroe County-Wayne County boundary along Lake Ontario to a portion of the St. Lawrence River that would extend to the east to Chippewa Bay near Hammond, taking in the Thousand Islands region. This alternative includes 64 known shipwrecks and possibly 20 more. It also includes one known underwater aircraft and possibly three others.

The second alternative would confine the sanctuary boundaries exclusively to Lake Ontario, with the eastern end being at Cape Vincent, where the lake and St. Lawrence River meet. This 1,724-square-mile sanctuary would include 43 known shipwrecks, possibly 20 additional ones, as well as the known aircraft and possible three others.

The same proposed management plan and regulations would apply to both alternatives; only the boundaries would be different.

NOAA is soliciting public comment on the proposal and will host two public meetings in August to do so. The first meeting will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 18 at the Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center, 26 E. First St., Oswego. The second will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 19 at the Clayton Opera House, 405 Riverside Drive, Clayton.

There will also be virtual meetings, one from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Aug. 24 at or by phone at +1 (562) 247-8422 and enter the PIN number 346-751-009. The second will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Aug. 26 at or by phone at +1 (415) 655-0052 and enter the PIN number 819-641-913.

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