Stabenow, Peters Announce $131,191 for Friends of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters today announced that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is awarding a $131,191 grant to the Friends of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The grant will support a diverse, interdisciplinary team that will use advanced technology to locate and rapidly assess additional cultural sites underwater within Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

"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," said Senator Stabenow, Co-Chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force. "This funding will help researchers better understand how we can protect the sanctuary for future generations.”

“Our precious Great Lakes are home to a rich maritime past, and the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is a shining example of Michigan’s incredible underwater history and heritage,” said Senator Gary Peters, member of the Great Lakes Task Force. “I am pleased that this funding will help develop new technology to protect, preserve and enhance Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, while supporting tourism opportunities that boost our state’s economy.” 

"This expedition will help us better protect the Great Lakes and their rich history,” said Jeff Gray, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary Superintendent. “Using cutting-edge technology, our team of partners will be mapping large areas of Lake Huron, making new discoveries, and documenting important historic shipwrecks."

Located in Lake Huron, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary was established in 2000 to protect one of the nation’s most historically significant collections of shipwrecks. In 2014, the sanctuary expanded from 448 to 4,300 square miles, making it the nation’s largest marine protected area focused on underwater cultural heritage sites. Within this new boundary are 93 known shipwreck sites, while historic research indicates as many 100 additional sites in the area remain undiscovered. However, the diverse underwater geography of the expansion area makes it difficult to assess with traditional survey and site assessment tools such as sonar and marine magnetometer. The new funding will help develop innovative methods for locating and rapidly assessing cultural sites in shallow and deep water with cutting edge equipment and techniques. The deep water survey segment will look for the historically significant wreck of steamer Choctaw, while the shallower survey will focus on known “ship traps.”

Last year, Stabenow and Peters introduced bipartisan legislation to recognize historically significant underwater areas in the Great Lakes as National Marine Sanctuaries, which would also increase tourism and boost Michigan’s economy. The Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Assessment Act aims to build on the success of Thunder Bay by directing the Administrator of the NOAA 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.