Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary Expands By 3,852 Square Miles

Final rule and environmental impact statement available online.

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary shipwreck

Shipwreck Alley

The wreck of the steamer Montana in Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Located in northwestern Lake Huron, Thunder Bay protects one of America's best-preserved and nationally-significant collections of shipwrecks. With this expansion, the sanctuary now protects an additional 100 known and suspected historic shipwreck sites.

On Sep. 5, NOAA released a final rule and environmental impact statement expanding the boundaries of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron from 448 square miles to 4,300 square miles. The new boundaries now include the waters of Lake Huron adjacent to Alcona, Alpena, and Presque Isle counties to the international border.

The expansion is based on several years of research by NOAA and its many scientific partners. The expanded sanctuary now protects an additional 100 known and suspected historic shipwreck sites.

The expansion of the sanctuary was driven by strong public support. During the process to review the sanctuary’s management plan in 2006, several local government and non-governmental organizations passed resolutions or submitted written letters of support for boundary expansion. Additionally, in 2007, the Thunder Bay Sanctuary Advisory Council adopted a resolution supporting expanded boundaries. NOAA held three public scoping meetings on this topic in April 2012.

Designated in 2000, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is one of 14 sites managed by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and the only one in the Great Lakes.  Co-managed by NOAA and the State of Michigan, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary has become an important part of the regional economy. Through increased tourism and related business development, the sanctuary is working with various partners to encourage sustainable tourism and foster greater awareness of the Great Lakes and their rich maritime heritage.

Thunder Bay features some of the world’s best-preserved shipwrecks, and visitors can explore these underwater sites first-hand through diving, snorkeling and kayaking.  For those wanting to stay dry, a glass-bottom boat takes visitors on tours of the sanctuary’s shipwrecks. Drawing more than 80,000 visitors annually, the sanctuary’s Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center features more than 10,000 square-feet of interactive exhibits and has become a major tourism destination in the region.

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Thunder Bay features some of the world’s best-preserved shipwrecks, and visitors can explore these underwater sites first-hand through diving, snorkeling and kayaking. For those wanting to stay dry, a glass-bottom boat takes visitors on tours of the sanctuary’s shipwrecks. Drawing more than 80,000 visitors annually, the sanctuary’s Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center features more than 10,000 square feet of interactive exhibits and has become a major tourism destination in the region.


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