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Public gets last chance to comment on national marine sanctuary in Lake Ontario


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is holding a series of public meetings to provide information and get public input on the designation of part of Lake Ontario as a national marine sanctuary.

Ellen Brody, the Great Lakes regional coordinator for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, said the designation would be an honor for the area.

"It is a big deal to become part of this National Marine Sanctuary system, and to become the 16th, to be recognized in the same sentence as Florida Keys, and Olympic Coast, and Monterey Bay, and Hawaiian islands,” she said.

The plan being considered encompasses about 1,700 square miles of Lake Ontario adjacent to Jefferson, Oswego, Cayuga, and Wayne counties. NOAA’s proposed restrictions include a prohibition on damaging, altering, or possessing underwater cultural resources like shipwreck artifacts. It is also proposing restrictions on the use of anchors or underwater robots.

This will be the final public comment period in a process that started in 2017, when leaders from four counties and the city of Oswego submitted their nomination for the designation.

Brody said, in general, community members have been supportive of the plan.

"People do seem to recognize the potential for this to make a difference in the community, ranging from education, from bringing researchers to this area to promoting it as a national destination,” she said.

Brody said the public comment period closes on March 20. Then, she expects it will take about a year for NOAA to finalize the designation.

For details on the plan, click here.

There will be two more public meetings, one in-person and one virtual. The next meeting is Thursday from 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. in Jefferson Community College’s Sturtz Theater in Watertown.

The virtual meeting is March 8 from 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. here.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.