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Hearings set this week for proposed Lake Ontario marine sanctuary

Jason Smith
WRVO News File Photo

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will hold a series of public meetings this week to consider the designation.

Officials are encouraging residents of four lakeshore counties to share their thoughts, concerns and questions with them. The public meetings are the first step in a long process.

NOAA officials want to designate almost 1,700 square miles of lake waters and “bottomlands” next to four lakeshore counties as a national marine sanctuary. The area includes more than 20 ships, 40 other vessels, and several aircraft lost in the lake. One of those is the HMS Ontario, a British warship that sank in 1780 during the American Revolutionary War.

Ellen Brody, Great Lakes Regional Coordinator for the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, said the shipwrecks are extraordinary and well-preserved.

“They represent this significant event in our country’s history,” Brody said. “So, NOAA is very excited about having the Lake Ontario shipwrecks as part of our national system.”

Brody said NOAA wants to protect, research, and improve public access to shipwrecks and other maritime heritage resources. The designation doesn’t mean that NOAA would regulate fishing, water quality or other natural resources of the area. And Brody said small communities can see a boost to their local economies by attracting tourists to the sanctuary.

“Within the Great Lakes, if you look at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, that has absolutely been the case where we have a visitor center that attracts almost 100,000 people a year in a town of almost 13,000 people,” Brody said.

NOAA officials will hold four separate public meetings this week. People can also submit their comments online before the end of July.

Public meeting dates and locations

  • June 10, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m., Fair Haven Fire Hall, 14447 Fair Haven Road, Sterling, NY
  • June 11, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m., Emergency Operations Center, 7376 Route 31, Lyons, NY
  • June 12, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m., Lake Ontario Conference Center, 26 East 1st Street, Oswego, NY
  • June 13, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m., Jefferson Community College, 1220 Coffeen Street, Jules Center, Room 6-002, Watertown, NY