The idea of a national marine sanctuary along the Wisconsin coast of Lake Michigan, including Kewaunee County, is back on the table after Gov. Tony Evers announced his endorsement of the concept at a news conference in Manitowoc on Friday (Nov. 1).

The sanctuary would be designed to protect, conserve, and enhance public access to a significant number of historic shipwrecks in Lake Michigan within Wisconsin state boundaries.

“These shipwrecks help tell the story of Wisconsin and they are a reminder of the enduring relationship between the people of Wisconsin and the Great Lakes,” said Gov. Evers. “This project will expand on state and local tourism initiatives, create a heightened appreciation of the Great Lakes, and provide educational opportunities on the historical significance of this lake shore.”

In coordination with the public announcement, Gov. Evers sent a letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries establishing renewed interest in completing this designation process.

The communities of Port Washington, Sheboygan, Manitowoc and Two Rivers nominated the waters off their counties for consideration as a national marine sanctuary, and the state of Wisconsin submitted the proposal to the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries in December 2014. Kewaunee County officials then began to lobby for inclusion in the proposal.

The process came to a sudden halt in March 2018 when then-Gov. Scott Walker withdrew the nomination.

After Walker lost his bid for a third term to Evers in November 2018, County Board Supervisor Lee Luft and others began to appeal to the new governor to revive the proposal.

“The only other Great Lakes National Marine Sanctuary in Michigan has been a true success and I would expect nothing less from the Wisconsin Lake Michigan Sanctuary,” Luft said Friday.