The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has begun the process to consider designating eastern Lake Erie off the state of Pennsylvania as a National Marine Sanctuary.
In December 2015, Erie County in Pennsylvania submitted a nomination proposing the part of Lake Erie adjacent to the state be considered as a national marine sanctuary “to conserve its nationally significant underwater cultural and historical resources and to expand upon existing local and state efforts to study, interpret, and promote them,” according to a US government notice published late last week.
The notice continues:
“The nomination provides a description of the cultural and historical resources in the region, the potential benefits of a national marine sanctuary designation, recommendations for management of the sanctuary, and a proposed sanctuary boundary.
“As a first step in this scoping process, NOAA invites comments on the factors that will contribute to its determination of whether and how to designate the area as a national marine sanctuary. The results of this scoping process will inform NOAA’s next steps in the designation process, which would include the preparation and release of draft designation documents, as well as the formulation of action alternatives for the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS). This scoping process will also inform the initiation of consultations with Indigenous Nations and Tribes, Federal, State, and local agencies, and other interested parties, as appropriate.”
The area of Lake Erie being considered for designation as a marine sanctuary includes approximately 740 square miles (1,917 square kilometers) of lake waters and bottomlands, according to NOAA. The area would be adjacent to approximately 75 miles (120 kilometers) of coastline bordering Erie County, Pennsylvania, that extends westward to the Ohio state line, northward to the international border with Ontario, Canada, and eastward to the New York State line. (The nomination would exclude the Erie Port from the sanctuary boundaries to allow shipping and other commercial activities to continue).
National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Vice President of External Affairs Shannon Colbert said:
“The waters of Lake Erie’s Eastern Basin span more than 200 years of our nation’s history, and deserve recognition as a national treasure. A sanctuary here would foster new opportunities for exploration, education, research and tourism that benefit the state’s coastal communities and bring increased attention to the Great Lakes’ role in the growth of our nation.”
Public comments are due by July 18, 2023.
Check out NOAA’s full notice here.