Oswego County Administrator Phil Church delivers a presentation June 10 at a public meeting in Fair Haven about the proposed Lake Ontario national marine sanctuary.

There is less than two weeks remaining for the public to submit comments regarding the proposed Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration opened the public comment period in April. The deadline for the public to comment on the proposal is Wednesday, July 31. 

Comments may be submitted online at the Federal eRulemaking Portal, regulations.gov. The docket number for the proposed sanctuary is NOAA-NOS-2019-0032. 

The public can mail comments to Ellen Brody, Great Lakes Regional Coordinator, NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, 4840 South State Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48108. 

The proposed sanctuary covers a 1,700-square-mile area of Lake Ontario off the coasts of Cayuga, Jefferson, Oswego and Wayne counties. It would protect at least 21 shipwrecks and a military aircraft that have been discovered at the bottom of the lake. 

Several central New York elected officials have pushed for the designation. After NOAA reopened its nomination process in 2014 — the first time it sought new sanctuaries in more than two decades — the four counties submitted the application in 2017. 

During the public comment period, NOAA officials and local representatives held meetings to inform the public about the designation process. The meetings, which included a forum in Fair Haven, were held in June. 

At the Cayuga County meeting, Oswego County Administrator Phil Church explained how the sanctuary would benefit the eastern end of Lake Ontario. The sanctuary status would preserve maritime heritage resources, expand research programs and bolster partnerships between agencies at all levels of government. 

The sanctuary wouldn't affect recreational activities, such as fishing, and won't interfere with the shipping industry. 

"We don't want to bring in something new that's going to limit something wonderful we already have," he said at the time. 

There are 14 national marine sanctuaries across the United States, including the new Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary in Maryland. There is a multi-year process for designating new marine sanctuaries. 

After the public comment period concludes, NOAA will compose a draft environmental impact statement, a draft management plan and proposed regulations for the Lake Ontario sanctuary. Once the documents are published, there will be another public comment period and additional informational meetings. 

NOAA officials have said the process could last at least two years.

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.


Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.