Lake Erie: National Marine Sanctuary?

For many area residents and tourists, Lake Erie is a popular destination for swimming, boating or just a day at the beach.  Erie now has the chance to apply to make its piece of the lake a National Marine Sanctuary.

An informational meeting was held Tuesday at the Hirt Auditorium to answer questions about what deeming our waters a marine sanctuary would mean for the area.

In June of this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that the American public can now nominate nationally significant marine and Great Lakes areas as potential new national marine sanctuaries.

Attendees gained useful information such as why marine sanctuaries work, what sanctuaries do and what makes them special.

For more than 40 years, marine sanctuaries have worked to show that conservation can go hand in hand with development.  Citizens have a strong say in what happens on the coasts of their marine sanctuary. Sanctuaries are used for learning, commerce and recreation with the vision of providing a treasure to pass on for generations.

Marine sanctuaries are places of national significance which are managed by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act.  Locations are chosen because of their scenic beauty, cultural heritage or ecological significance for America.

A socioeconomic factsheet is available through the NOAA that details how National Marine Sanctuaries are doing in other areas.  The process of becoming a National Marine Sanctuary is not a fast process and can take more than one year to transpire.  Once the application is received the NOAA scrutinizes it to determine the feasibility of the proposal.

Steve Ropski, Ph.D., a professor in Gannon University’s biology department and the director of the science program in the Morosky College of Health Professions and Sciences, said he feels this makes a ton of sense.

“Presque Isle is an officially designated National Natural Landmark and extending into the lake would ensure PI stays well protected,” Ropski said. “PI is too important a part of Erie’s tourism and fabric of life to not give strong consideration to this.”

Carolyn McIntyre, an Erie resident and senior secondary education/English major, said she agrees with Ropski’s view.

“I think it is a good idea, because Lake Erie is the greatest asset Erie has to offer for tourism and the local community,” McIntyre said. “It provides a wonderful array of marine wildlife and plants. The lake is a natural treasure that should be explored and protected. Lake Erie has already lost some of its marine life due to pollution.”

For those who were unable to attend Tuesday’s informational session, further questions can be directed to Julia Donahue, Lake Erie Regional CRM Coordinator at [email protected] or 814-451-6018.

ANGELA JEFFERY

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