Oswego County Administrator Phil Church is a shipwreck diver and photographer in his off time. These days, he's bringing his hobby to work. Church is coordinating an effort between Oswego, Jefferson, Cayuga and Wayne counties and the city of Oswego to have the southeastern part of Lake Ontario designated as a national marine sanctuary. There are only 14 in the world and Church said Oswego has a good case to join that list.
"There are vessels from those historic periods sitting on the bottom of the lake that are large museums that have not been studied so far," Church said. "There are ships out there that went down in the early 1800's that are still intact and it’s hard to find that anywhere outside the Great Lakes."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is accepting nominations for the marine sanctuary program for the first time in 20 years. Church's group was approached by NOAA about applying in 2014 and officially launched their campaign in the fall of 2015.
He says designating the lake as a national marine sanctuary will bring in a wave of tourism and resources to help conserve what's beneath its surface. According to Church, the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron has helped create 1,700 jobs in Alpena, Michigan.
The group plans to submit their application this month. It first must be approved by New York state before it goes to NOAA for consideration.