Ontario asked for input in creating an Underwater Preserve
Local and US Federal Agencies Looking At Wrecking Lake Ontario
by Stephen Weir
from the June issue of Diver Magazine
Breaking News: Four New York counties, a small upstate city and the State of New York itself, have asked the Province of Ontario, the Ontario Underwater Council, and the Save Ontario Shipwreck association to support a plan to create a shipwreck preserve and marine habitat in the Eastern end of Lake Ontario. The Province is being urged by Ontario divers to consider adding its own preserve in the wreck rich area of the lake near Prince Edward County and Amherst Island.
The American counties: Jefferson, Oswego, Cayuga and Wayne, the City of Oswego and the New York State government are proposing the creation of an underwater and wreck conservation zone for south eastern Lake Ontario. The project is designed to “preserve, protect, promote and create economies around such submerged resources”. It takes in 1,746 square miles of water with depths ranging from the shallows to 802 feet, and borders 173 miles of US shoreline along the southern border of the lake.
“The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) manages the National Marine Sanctuary System in US waters, including our side of the Great Lakes,” said Phil Church, Oswego County Administrator and NMS Task Force Chairman.
“ NOAA is, for the first time in 20-years, accepting nominations to add new National Marine Sanctuaries to the 15 it has already established (in US salt and fresh waters).”
This unique opportunity has prompted these partners to ask the US Federal Government to preserve, protect and promote the submerged resources and those shore-based resources that adjoin them.
The underwater park’s northern most boundary is the Canadian / American border. Since much of those waters fall in the International Shipping Lanes of Lake Ontario, jurisdiction falls to the two Federal Governments, the State of New York and the Province of Ontario.
On land the proposed park begins just south of Canada’s Wolfe Island, near the Village of Cape Vincent, and reaches the western border of Wayne County.
“In our end of Lake Ontario we have identified 17 shipwrecks that should be protected. There could be 52 more (including two aircraft) but NOAA hasn’t done an inventory here like it has done in (other Great Lakes).”
The wreck of the ST. PETER is on the National Register of Historic Places, and another, the DAVID W. MILLS, is a New York State Submerged Cultural Preserve and Dive Site.
New York “has been working on this for some time and the project is a true labour of love “ said Ron Bogart, the president of the influential Ontario Underwater Council. This is something “we would need to find a similar champion for north of the border.”
“The OUC recognizes the rare opportunity (to create an underwater wreck preserve in Lake Ontario)” continued Mr. Bogart. “ The council is excited to support enthusiastic and collaborative efforts to showcase the maritime heritage in the eastern Lake Ontario region.”
Save Ontario Shipwrecks has given verbal support to the proposal and will be submitting a written brief. In the past the SOS has been in support of the creation of Lake Ontario underwater wreck preserves.
Micheal Coteau, the Minister of Sport in Ontario, has received a brief from the American based group. He has not yet responded, however, his government in the past has supported wreck heritage legislation, including controls on the remains of the Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior (which is actually in Federally controlled waters) and the War of 1812 Hamilton and Scourge US warship wrecks near Hamilton in Lake Ontario.
The American team will soon be presenting their plans to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It could be sometime before NOAA makes a decision on the Lake Ontario park. However, it has already accepted an application to create the Lake Erie Quadrangle.
This will be a national marine sanctuary which includes all Lake Erie waters in Pennsylvania, including Presque Isle Bay, from Ohio to New York and north to the lake's Canadian border line. It will encompass 76.6 miles of Erie County and Pennsylvania shoreline and 759 square miles of wreck filled Lake Erie water.
America’s Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary was established by the NOAA in the year 2000. Located in northwestern Lake Huron, Thunder Bay is adjacent to one of the most treacherous stretches of water -- "Shipwreck Alley." There are an estimated 116 historically significant shipwrecks ranging from nineteenth century wooden side-wheelers to twentieth century steel-hulled steamers within the 4300-square-mile Sanctuary.
The creation of the park has created a dive industry in the town of Alpena, Michigan. According to a regional 2005 study on total visitor spending, the dive park brings in $92 million US in sales, $35.8 million in personal income to residents, $51.3 million in value added and 1,704 jobs. Approximately 60,000 shipwreck lovers visit annually. The population of Alpena itself is only 11,000.
DAVID W. MILLS was a 65 metre long cargo ship that was built in 1874. She sank in 1894 in an August storm. In 2000 the Mills was designated as New York State’s first Submerged Cultural Preserve and Dive Site in Lake Ontario.
The wreck of ST. PETER is called Lake Ontario’s most impressive shipwreck. The 45 metre long three-masted schooner stands upright in 40 metres of water near the port of Putneyville, NY.