Officials enlist residents in fight to save marine sanctuary

Move comes after governor rescinds support for NOAA plan

The schooner Northerner, an amazingly intact shipwreck located five miles southeast of Port Washington in 135 feet of water, is one of the more than 30 shipwrecks that would have been included in the National Marine Sanctuary that NOAA proposed to establish off the coast of Ozaukee, Sheboygan and Manitowoc counties. A storm sunk the Northerner in 1868. Gov. Scott Walker sunk the sanctuary initiative last week by rescinding his approval.
Ozaukee Press staff

Port Washington officials on Tuesday urged area residents to write to their state and federal officials in an attempt to get Gov. Scott Walker to change his decision and once again nominate the lake from Port Washington to Two Rivers as a marine shipwreck sanctuary.

“What we need now is to reopen the dialogue (with Walker),” Mayor Tom Mlada told the Common Council Tuesday. “We don’t consider this a death knell.

“We believe this (sanctuary designation) represents significant opportunity for the area and the state. The reality is the impact is far-reaching. There’s a world of potential.”

“Hopefully, we can let the governor know there still is very strong support for this,” said Port Washington Tourism Council Executive Director Kathy Tank.

 While the proposed sanctuary has been touted as a tourism magnet for the area and a way to protect shipwrecks, Tank said its benefits go far beyond that.

“It brings in federal resources that never in a million years would we otherwise have access to,” she said, including capital investments, educational opportunities, research and jobs.

“There are so many more benefits than just protection of wrecks, which is what so many people seem to think it’s all about.”

Divers aren’t the only ones who would benefit, Tank said, noting that one purpose of the sanctuary designation is to bring the stories and sights of the lake to everyone. 

The federal resources could help the state find additional wrecks in the area, added Tish Hase, co-owner of Port Deco Divers.

The sanctuary designation by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has had bipartisan support from state and federal legislators, and officials believed approval of the sanctuary was just months away — something Walker’s March 6 announcement stopped in its tracks.

Noting the sanctuary effort started in the communities that would be impacted, not from the federal government, Mlada said “I really believe this process is representative government at its best.”

The mayors of the four communities most impacted by the sanctuary — Port, Sheboygan, Manitowoc and Two Rivers — are urging residents to contact their state and federal officials and even county supervisors to pressure the governor to reopen talks about the sanctuary so his concerns can be addressed.

Tank said she has a template for a letter area residents can send to legislators, and people may obtain it by emailing her at

Yellow and blue Save Our Sanctuary buttons and stickers are being created for people to wear in support of the effort, officials added.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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