Marine sanctuary sought for Kewaunee County
More than 100 people filled the community center Monday at Knutson Hall in Algoma for a hearing on including Kewaunee County in a proposed Wisconsin-Lake Michigan National Marine Sanctuary.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration first proposed a sanctuary designation along the lake’s western shore in 2004 to — as it’s brochure on the topic said — “conserve nationally significant shipwrecks and related maritime heritage resources in Wisconsin.”
In October 2015, NOAA announced its intent to create maritime sanctuary adjacent to Ozaukee, Sheboygan and Manitowoc counties.
The sanctuary would protect the wreck sites by prohibiting anchoring to the wrecks. However, divers would still be permitted to explore them.
At least 37 known shipwrecks are located in the waters off the three counties. An additional 80 sites are thought to exist, the NOAA website said.
NOAA officials at the Algoma hearing said an alternative proposal was developed last year to include the waters off Kewaunee County in the sanctuary. One confirmed and 15 potential wreck sites would be added with Kewaunee’s inclusion.
Among the speakers Monday, Bill Iwen — who said he was a longtime Algoma resident — suggested that a marine sanctuary designation would enhance cultural awareness of the county as part of what he called “the sweet-water sea.”
Iwen said inclusion in the sanctuary designation would remind the world, “we are a part of the largest freshwater sources on the planet.”
Kewaunee County Board member Lee Luft said including the county in the sanctuary, “could build upon some phenomenal things that are going on … right now.”
Among the activities is the more than $4 million restoration of the Kewaunee harbor lighthouse, new docks and walkways and a new farmer’s market and “the new site of the world’s largest grandfather clock,” Luft said.
“Kewaunee County is a gem, a jewel,” Luft said. “There are 3,144 counties in this country. Of that, only about 70 are on the Great Lakes, and out of that, only a handful have coastlines … as we do.”
Algoma City Administrator Jeff Wiswell said supporting the sanctuary would “honor our natural resources, and we believe this is a wonderful way to do this. We think this is a wonderful activity.”
Several speakers from Door County urged including the shore as far as Gills Rock in the sanctuary.
Hearings were also planned in Manitowoc, Sheboygan and Port Washington this week. Written comments would be accepted until March 31, NOAA officials said. Information on where to send comments can be found at sanctuaries.noaa.gov/wisconsin.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Marine sanctuary sought for Kewaunee County