NOAA proposes national marine sanctuary off New York

Agency seeks public comment on eastern Lake Ontario sanctuary draft plan

Divers examine the Great Lakes schooner St. Peter, which was carrying coal when it sank in a storm in 1898.
Divers examine the Great Lakes schooner St. Peter, which was carrying coal when it sank in a storm in 1898. (NOAA)

NOAA today released for public comment its draft analysis for a national marine sanctuary in eastern Lake Ontario and the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River that would celebrate the area’s unique history and heritage, and provide a national stage for promoting tourism and recreation. 

“This proposal would continue to expand protections for our nation’s rich maritime heritage resources,” said Rick Spinrad, Ph.D., NOAA Administrator. “We are excited for the opportunity to bring this special place to the attention of the rest of the country."

NOAA is proposing to designate up to 1,786 square miles of Lake Ontario and the Thousand Islands region adjacent to Jefferson, Wayne, Oswego, Cayuga, and St. Lawrence counties in the state of New York that serves as a gateway between the Great Lakes and the ocean. The nominated area contains 64 known shipwrecks and one aircraft representing events spanning more than 200 years of our nation's history. Based on historical records, an additional 20 shipwrecks and three aircraft may be located there.

“Any possible new sanctuary is a big deal for NOAA, the surrounding community, and the nation,” said Nicole LeBoeuf, acting director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service. “This is the public’s opportunity to weigh in on how to best preserve the rich history of this unique place.”

"We encourage everyone, especially those in the local communities, to review our draft proposal,” said John Armor, director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. “Your input will help us create a national marine sanctuary that will provide a window into the past and become a national stage for heritage tourism and recreation opportunities in the Lake Ontario region." 

NOAA received a community based nomination in 2017 through its Sanctuary Nomination Process, which gained broad community support. In 2019, NOAA hosted meetings in upstate New York to solicit public input on potential sanctuary boundaries and resources that could be protected. NOAA also established a sanctuary advisory council to help inform the designation process and focus stakeholder participation. 

For more information on the proposed sanctuary, see the Federal Register notice. 

How to Comment

NOAA is soliciting public comment on a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) and a draft management plan (DMP) for the proposed sanctuary. The DEIS describes potential boundaries and regulatory concepts, and the DMP includes a suite of non-regulatory goals and activities proposed to manage the sanctuary. NOAA does not have a preferred boundary alternative. 

The public can comment on the draft sanctuary proposal until Sept. 10, 2021, through the Federal eRulemaking Portal, www.regulations.gov. The docket number is NOAA-NOS-2021-0050.

Comments may also be mailed if postmarked by Sept. 10, 2021. Comments should be addressed to:

Ellen Brody
Regional Coordinator
Proposed Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary
4840 South State Road  
Ann Arbor, MI 48108-9719

Informational Meetings

NOAA also will host in-person and virtual meetings at the following locations on the dates and times specified to answer questions and gather public input:

August 18, 2021, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. EDT
Location: virtual meeting
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8226916950939600400 offsite link
By phone: +1 (415) 655-0060 PIN: 439-509-724

August 19, 2021, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. EDT
Location: virtual meeting
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8864690869654406928 offsite link
By phone: +1(914) 614-3221 PIN: 237-285-132

Aug. 24, 2021, 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. EDT
Location: virtual meeting
https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/5067664901003984652 offsite link
By phone: +1 (562) 247-8422  PIN: 346-751-009 

Aug. 26, 2021, 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. EDT
Location: virtual meeting
https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/2978792919345892364 offsite link
By phone: +1 (415) 655-0052  PIN: 819-641-913

Following the comment period, NOAA will develop a proposed rulemaking, which will then be available for public review. After reviewing the comments from the public, NOAA will then decide whether to designate the sanctuary.  

Media contacts

Jennie Lyons, Jennie.Lyons@noaa.gov, 202-603-9372 (cell)

Vernon Smith, Vernon.Smith@noaa.gov, 240-638-6447 (cell)