Comment on Lake Huron shipwreck sanctuary ends Friday


The only federally-protected underwater sanctuary on the Great Lakes could increase 10-fold to more than 4,000 square miles.

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron could expand from its current 448 square miles after an environmental study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. The expansion includes waters adjacent to Alcona and Presque Isle counties in the northeast of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

Video of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary provided by  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


The sanctuary receives about 70,000 visitors a year. It was established in 2000 and is managed by federal and state officials.

In 2007, sanctuary advisers adopted a resolution supporting the expanded boundaries, but recent tries at getting Congressional approval came up short.

Now the 30-person council will decide, after public comment, if it will continue to recommend it.

“We can get this thing done our way and hopefully it can get through,” said Steve Kroll, a member of the advisory board and an Alpena dive shop owner.

This wreck site is the two-masted schooner F.T. Barney, which was built in 1850 and sank in 1874, and lies approximately four miles off Rogers City, Michigan. Photo courtesy of

The sanctuary preserves nationally significant shipwrecks and other maritime heritage resources through protection, education and research. It is one of 14 U.S. marine sanctuaries that offer educational programs and scuba diving opportunities. Vessels can pass through it without restriction.

The proposed expansion includes an estimated 200 shipwrecks and would connect the underwater sanctuary from Michigan to the shores of Canada. No public funds are allotted as part of the approval.

“Very positive support has been received from the public comment sessions and many of the local governments have passed resolutions supporting the expansion,” said Jeff Gary, the sanctuary’s superintendent.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, various state senators and officials of adjacent cities have written letters of support. So has the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce.

“The impacts of a boundary expansion fit directly into the chamber’s mission advancing the economic development and community’s quality of life…,” wrote Jackie Krawczak, executive director of the chamber.

Diver exploring the German freighter Nordmeer, which wrecked near Thunder Bay Island in 1966. Photo courtesy of

Kroll, a sanctuary volunteer and previous advisory committee chair, owns Great Lakes Diving, an Alpena scuba diving shop. He also operates a dive charter service company. He previously opposed the expansion because he thought it was too big to manage. But he has since changed his position and testified to Congress twice in support of it.

“I think the sanctuary has shown what it can do for the area and the asset that it is for the area,” Kroll said. “Not only do I want its boundaries to expand, but expand in terms of what it has to offer.”

He will soon open a new dive shop just across the street from the sanctuary’s Alpena entrance.

Gary says tourism brought by the expansion will enhance the local economy.

“We are hearing how the work we do is supporting to learn more about the use of the Great Lakes and its history to help bring on the tourism to this area which is a spectacular area with wonderful natural resources,” he said.

The public comment session ends Friday. Comments can be submitted to Jeff Gray at or mailed to him at 500 West Fletcher St., Alpena, Mich., 49707.

The committee hopes to have the report completed over the summer.

To see the full gallery of photos taken by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association at Thunder Bay, click here.

4 thoughts on “Comment on Lake Huron shipwreck sanctuary ends Friday

  1. Pingback: Tour a Thunder Bay shipwreck without getting wet. | Great Lakes Echo

  2. Pingback: Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary could grow tenfold « Michigan in Pictures

  3. I have mixed feelings about this (but only slightly mixed, because in the final analysis, I am against it). The obvious intent (i.e. to preserve shipwrecks and make them available to the public) is great, but this would outlaw the taking of artifacts and put all the costs on the public and I think both would be major mistakes.

    Many of the estimated 200 wrecks that would be included in the expansion are of no real historical significance or real archaeological value. Even for the shipwrecks that are important, the wrecks are fast being completely taken over by Zebra mussels. The wrecks and all of the exposed artifacts on them will be entirely covered by mussel shells unless the government spends a great many millions every year removing them. And, the government’s estimate of 200 wrecks could easily be wrong by a factor of ten. There could be thousands of wrecks included in the sanctuary and the costs would rise significantly.

    The repeated cycle of growing and removal of the mussels will be extremely destructive to the ships and the artifacts.

    This expansion of the sanctuary may sound good theoretically, but it is ill conceived and is really an effort to expand government control of our lives, and NOAA (as prodded by the current administration) will be using your money to do it. Comment and stop it now (public comment is open through this Friday) before it gets support from those who won’t stop to think that this only sounds good, but will ultimately fail because we can’t afford it.

    No public funds are allotted as part of the approval, even though the sanctuary is already managed by federal and state officials and it would greatly increase their obligations and duties (and their power).

    The fact that no additional funding is being allotted should serve as a warning that they aren’t telling us everything. If the people pushing this expansion were being forthright, they would tell the truth that additional funds (i.e. tax dollars and/or fees charged divers and boat operators) will absolutely be required. If the Sanctuary’s administrators get involved in protecting the wrecks by cleaning them of Zebra mussels, which they would naturally want to do, I have no doubt the increased costs involved will be in the many millions of dollars every year.

    Obviously the expense to tax-payers is a burden they can’t afford. I think allowing private salvage (by sport divers and commercial salvors) would actually do far more to preserve the story of these wrecks.

    If you read books like Captain Dan Berg’s “Wreck Valley III” or Pat Klyne’s “The Atocha Odyssey,” you will better understand how sport divers and commercial salvors are effectively saving and sharing the history and archaeology of shipwrecks for everyone by salvaging (i.e. rescuing or saving) artifacts from them.

    If you aren’t familiar with Zebra mussels and the extensive damage they do (not just can do), read this article: The River Whisperer: Zebra Mussels; A Destructive Force.

    Dr. E. Lee Spence, underwater archaeologist
    President, Sea Research Society (10,302 members)

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