Lake Ontario marine sanctuary

Thanks to Auburn Pub for this:

Six years after its nomination, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released a proposal to designate eastern Lake Ontario as a national marine sanctuary.

The proposed sanctuary would cover a 1,724-square mile area and protect 43 known shipwrecks and an aircraft. NOAA noted that, based on research, there could be at least 20 more shipwrecks and three aircraft underwater.

If eastern Lake Ontario is designated as a national marine sanctuary, NOAA would manage the sanctuary and provide interpretation. The agency proposed a handful of regulations to protect the area, including prohibiting “moving, removing, recovering, altering, destroying, possessing or otherwise injuring a sanctuary resource.” Anchoring on shipwreck sites would be banned.

With the release of the proposal, NOAA opened a public comment period as part of the rulemaking process. A link to comment on the proposal can be found at Comments will be accepted through March 20.

NOAA will also hold four meetings — three in-person and one virtual — for the public to comment on the proposal.

The in-person meetings are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28, at the Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center in Oswego; 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 1, at the Wolcott Elks Lodge No. 1763 in Wolcott; and 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 2, at Jefferson Community College in Watertown.

The virtual meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 8. More details about the meetings can be found at

Lake Ontario marine sanctuary (photo by NOAA)

This is the next step in a years-long process for designating a national marine sanctuary. NOAA reopened its nomination process for marine sanctuaries in 2014. In 2017, representatives from four New York counties — Cayuga, Jefferson, Oswego and Wayne — and the city of Oswego collaborated to nominate eastern Lake Ontario for national marine sanctuary status.

According to NOAA, there are four steps in the designation process. The agency first announces its intent to designate a new marine sanctuary and collects feedback from the public. For the proposed eastern Lake Ontario sanctuary, the agency began holding public meetings and gathering comments in 2019.

That initial phase is followed by the sanctuary proposal, which includes a draft environmental impact statement and management plan. Those documents were released in 2021 for public review.

The sanctuary designation is the last step. NOAA will make the final decision on whether to designate Lake Ontario as a national marine sanctuary.

NOAA Proposal

NOAA’s Proposal

Eastern Lake Ontario

Boundary: 1,724 square-miles

Known Shipwrecks: 43

Potential Shipwrecks: 20

Known Aircraft: 1

Potential Aircraft: 3

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