MANITOWOC, Wis. (WFRV) — In a press event at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, Governor Tony Evers announced he has sent a letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in favor of the Wisconsin-Lake Michigan National Marine Sanctuary.
The designation was originally set in motion in 2014 but stalled after former Governor Scott Walker pulled his support for the project in 2018.
The designation would protect, conserve, and enhance public access to a large number of historic shipwrecks.
“This is the reason we’re doing this,” Manitowoc Mayor Justin Nickels said. “To preserve and protect the shipwrecks that built all of our communities. Their stories need to be told.”
For Manitowoc Mayor Justin Nickels, establishing the sanctuary has been a decade in the making.
“The City of Manitowoc is the ideal location for the next Great Lakes Marine Sanctuary,” he read at Friday’s event from a letter he wrote to former Governor Jim Doyle in 2009.
Supporters hope the creation of the sanctuary will help drive tourism up and down the coast.
“It will give them [lakeshore communities] the position that they merit,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) said, “that of a premier, national coastal destination.”
The sanctuary would stretch from Port Washington to Algoma.
The shoreline communities of Kewaunee and Algoma had not been included in an earlier proposal for the sanctuary.
“The sanctuary is another way to get Kewaunee county back on the map,” Jennifer Gonzalez, Tourism Director for Kewaunee County said. “We’re hoping that this will attract more divers worldwide just to explore that history and learn something new.”
Governor Evers said those concerns have been addressed.
“I met with people that were for this and against this,” he said, “and we’ve addressed as many of those issues as possible in our letter.”
With that letter sent, the next step is to get the sanctuary on the national registry.
Congress will have 50 days to comment before the designation is finalized.
The Wisconsin-Lake Michigan Marine Sanctuary would be the second of its kind in the country.