Group Raises Concerns about NOAA Lake Michigan Sanctuary

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is proposing a National Marine Sanctuary off  the Western Coast of Lake Michigan. The stated intent of the 1,075-square-mile sanctuary adjacent to Manitowoc, Sheboygan and Ozaukee counties is to preserve shipwrecks in the area.  But a group opposing the designation says sanctuaries allow NOAA to do much more than that. As NOAA holds meetings in the affected counties this month, so too is the  Citizens for Responsible Zoning and Landowner Rights. CRZL spokesman James Zeiler told us in an email that the sanctuary designation gives NOAA extensive authority of the area in question:

Rule #1 in all Sanctuaries is no exploration and no development of fossil fuels or minerals. Forever.

Another rule of all Sanctuaries is no dredging or altering of the bottom lands This rule would stop water intake pipes, wind turbines and such, forever.


Publicity for NMS stated “broad based community support.” At that time, December 2014 there were 89 names politicians, groups and organizations endorsing petition. Today the support is still less than 100.


In their public sessions, why didn’t NOAA disclose these rules? Hide the truth from the gullible?


Consider all the Sanctuary proposals NOAA has under consideration at the instant. Baltimore Canyon, Hudson Canyon, Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, Chumash, Lake Superior (recently dropped). Are they suddenly concerned or is it a blatant power grab to enlarge their base? In the last two years several other petitions were dropped.


This sudden explosion of NMS activity may have been caused by the failed program of President Obama called Marine Spatial Planning. Another Agenda 21 scheme to enlarge reach of Feds. Marine Spatial Planning was designed to capture oceans, Great Lakes and their tributaries.


In the draft EIS report it mentions the possibility of expanding the boundary to the WI and MI line. As they are already thinking expansion and in view of what NOAA did with the Thunder Bay expansion why weren’t all commercial and charter fishing businesses on Lake Michigan notified in person as those businesses could potentially be at risk? How about boat builders and others with marine based businesses.

Steve Fisher,  Executive Director American Great Lakes Ports Association, made similar claims in a column which included a discussion of the proposed Lake Michigan sanctuary:

Restricting activities. By encouraging and assisting local officials to nominate large areas of the Great Lakes as new sanctuaries, NOAA is expanding its own role and control. While it may not be their intention, NOAA is effectively zoning sections of the Great Lakes. The idea of zoning U.S. waters has been controversial. Known as “marine spatial planning,” the practice was a centerpiece of President Obama’s 2010 National Ocean Policy. His opponents in Congress were vocal, citing their fear that certain activities would be restricted in U.S. waters and certain users negatively impacted— particularly shipping, fishing and energy interests. More than 80 national trade associations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, appealed to Congress to block the policy.

In fact, proponents of  the proposed Chumash Sanctuary off the California coast made no secret of the fact that stopping fossil fuel exploration was their goal. Zeiler argues that the Chumash  proposal should be a warning to communities of how they may be getting a lot more regulation than they bargain for with a sanctuary. While fossil fuel exploration may seem unlikely in Lake Michigan, the expansion of oil-carrying pipelines isn’t. And NOAA has previously expanded sanctuary zones from their original size.

Community leaders in several affected Wisconsin cities have embraced the sanctuary. Rolf Johnson, CEO of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc, said that the sanctuary, if designated, would create positive economic, educational, and cultural benefits for our region and state. In fact, a University of Michigan study of the impact of the Thunder Bay sanctuary said it brought economic benefits to the region.  Zeiler counters that there are already regulations in place to protect shipwrecks and that whatever jobs are created by the sanctuaries are low paying.

Meanwhile, Port Washington Mayor, another community leader backing the sanctuary, warned this week that President Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget puts it in jeopardy, because it cuts NOAA’s budget:

“We don’t know how that would potentially flow through to the Great Lakes fund or NOAA,” Mlada said, noting the budget proposal would slash funding for NOAA by 18%. “Clearly, I think there is some degree of concern with the potential cuts.

“Now is the time to let your voices be heard. This is something that’s simply too important. We have to push this down the field and into the end zone.”

Mlada said he is hoping for a good turnout at a public meeting on the sanctuary proposal  from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 16, in the Lakeview Community Room in the former Wilson House in downtown Port.

Public comments on the sanctuary’s draft environmental impact statement and management plans will be taken at the meeting, with input sought on everything from whether people support the overall concept of a sanctuary to the borders of the proposed sanctuary — there are two alternatives, the original three-county plan and one that includes the waters off Kewaunee County.

Mlada and other officials have long touted the impact a national sanctuary could have on the area, in terms of education, tourism and community vitality

Zeiler says whatever economic boosts comes from the sanctuaries, they are offset by the total control of the impacted waters that is ceded to NOAA,