NOAA proposes ‘underwater national park’ for Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River

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NEW YORK (WWTI) — A marine sanctuary may be coming to New York’s largest freshwater body.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released its draft proposal for a national marine sanctuary in eastern Lake Ontario and the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River.

Specifically, NOAA has proposed to designate up to 1,786-square miles on Lake Ontario and the Thousand Islands region adjacent to Jefferson, Wayne, Oswego, Cayuga and St. Lawrence counties. This area contains 64 known shipwrecks and one aircraft representing over 200 years of history.

NOAA is currently considering two possible boundaries for the proposed sanctuary. Both are featured below:

Map: NOAA
Map: NOAA

Following the release of this proposal the New York State Department of State, Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, and the New York State Museum applauded the concept of an “underwater national park.”

“The Department of State is proud to collaborate with NOAA and our State agency partners on recognizing the nationally-significant resources under Lake Ontario’s waters,” said New York State Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. “The Sanctuary designation provides much-needed national recognition for the region’s world-class maritime history and resources at a time when many Lake Ontario communities are still recovering from recent events.”

According the Department of State, the sanctuary nomination first originated as a community-based initiative and will continue to be locally driven.

It was first submitted in 2017 by Oswego, Jefferson, Cayuga and Wayne Counties.

Before any further action is taken, NOAA is seeking public feedback on the proposal. Four public meetings will be hosted in August to provide additional information.

The full proposal can be read on the NOAA website.

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