Designation of Marine Sanctuary Could be Boon to Lake Ontario Shore Communities

A Legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
There’s an effort under way for a four-county shoreline region of Lake Ontario to be designated as a National Marine Sanctuary.

If designated, the local fresh-water area would be federally protected, help teach locals and visitors about the area’s rich Native American culture and historic underwater landmarks, and promote our fishing industry.

For the first time in 20 years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is inviting communities to nominate places for consideration as National Marine Sanctuaries.

Currently, there are only 14 marine sanctuaries in the U.S., and only one is in the Great Lakes.

All others are located in the oceans and seas and include the Florida Keys on the East Coast, Flower Garden Banks in the Gulf of Mexico, and Monterrey Bay on the West Coast.

Thunder Bay in Alpena Michigan is the only Great Lakes sanctuary.

Four Lake Ontario counties in Central and Northern New York as well as the city of Oswego hope to change that and recently submitted a joint application to have roughly a 1,500-square-mile portion of Lake Ontario be designated a National Marine Sanctuary.

A map which can be viewed at outlines the Great Lake Ontario Marine Sanctuary.

It would include Sodus Point, Fair Haven, Oswego, North Pond, Selkirk and continue north through Sacket’s Harbor and Henderson Harbor.

The designation would enable us to better preserve shipwrecks, archaeological sites, and marine resources of cultural significance to Native American communities.

For our area, a designation would also mean more tourism and job creation through both tourism and education.

For example, it would help draw more tourists to see The Three Brothers, the oldest confirmed commercial schooner to be found in the Great Lakes last year after being lost in Lake Ontario.

The designation has the potential to increase research and development through our universities by attracting international researchers and vessels to study our ecology and archaeology.

The marine sanctuary designation in Alpena has been beneficial to their economy.

As a result of the designation, tourism in Alpena increased which meant 1,704 jobs were created in 2005.

This increased payrolls by $35 million and infused an additional $92 million into the local economy that year.

For a community of roughly 10,000 in population, this is significant.

Shipwreck tours are attracting large numbers of visitors and glass-bottomed boat tours provide unique views of the wreckages that lay on the bottom of Lake Huron.

Thunder Bay has worked to promote kayak tours, bike rentals, dive shops and charters.

It is hoped that many of the same types of economic activity will take place locally if our area earns this designation.

A local grassroots movement in Oswego is working to restore the Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse near Fort Ontario and this sanctuary could, for example, work hand in hand with attracting visitors to the shores, the waters and the structures along Lake Ontario.

The designation process for the marine sanctuary could take several years.

However, now that the application has been submitted, the public’s support is welcome.

To find out more information or to support the project, visit

If you have any questions or comments regarding this or any other state issue, please contact me.

My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.

You can also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.