WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow today introduced bipartisan legislation to recognize historically significant underwater areas in the Great Lakes as National Marine Sanctuaries, which would increase tourism and boost Michigan’s economy. The Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Assessment Act would build on the success of Thunder Bay in Alpena, which was designated in 2000 as the only freshwater marine sanctuary in the country. More than 90,000 people visited Thunder Bay last year alone, adding millions of dollars to Michigan’s economy.
“Tourism in the Great Lakes is vital to Michigan’s economy, and it’s critical that we continue to protect our state’s treasured natural resources for many years to come,” said Senator Peters, Member of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force. “Designating more areas in the Great Lakes as sanctuaries will build on the success of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary to bring more families, divers and explorers to see Michigan’s maritime history firsthand. I’m proud to join Senator Stabenow to introduce this bill that will boost our tourism industry and support local economic development across Michigan.”
“The Great Lakes are part of who we are and our Michigan way of life,” said Senator Stabenow, Co-Chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force. “The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary has attracted families and divers from across the state and throughout the world to discover and explore our rich maritime heritage. This legislation will allow more areas in the Great Lakes to be recognized as sanctuaries, which will bring new visitors to Michigan and help preserve our national treasures for future generations.”
“The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary has had a profoundly positive economic impact on the Alpena area and the Northeast Michigan region,” said Jim Klarich, Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director of Economic Development. “The Sanctuary has introduced our maritime heritage to hundreds of thousands of visitors and is a catalyst in driving academic partnerships while embracing and driving economic vitality.”
The Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Assessment Act would direct the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to recommend the designation of national marine sanctuaries in the Great Lakes. Marine sanctuaries provide significant educational opportunities and economic development in the regions where they are located. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) is also an original co-sponsor of this bill.