In 2016, following several years of archaeological research, NOAA proposed and solicited public input on a proposal to expand Monitor National Marine Sanctuary off North Carolina to include additional historic shipwreck sites. The proposed expansion would protect an internationally significant collection of shipwrecks, which are at risk from numerous threats, including one of America's only World War II battlefields.
Protecting Our Nation's World War II Battlefield
In the following video, Protecting Our Nation's World War II Battlefield, learn how World War II came home to America's shores off the North Carolina coast in 1942. Discover how Monitor National Marine Sanctuary is working to preserve this amazing collection of ships lost during World War II's Battle of the Atlantic.
Our Nation has a rich tradition of honoring and protecting special places that have defined our history. From the battlefields of Yorktown and Shiloh to the now peaceful waters of Pearl Harbor, these places serve as quiet witnesses to the valor and sacrifice of generations past. Off the coast of North Carolina lies the remains of a forgotten World War II battlefield that serves as the final resting place for nearly 1,700 men lost during the Battle of The Atlantic.
From January through July of 1942, German U-boats sank ships off the American east coast with relative impunity. This American Theatre of World War II was the closest area of conflict to the Continental United States. This complex naval battlefield stretched from New England into the Gulf of Mexico, but the area off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, emerged as a strategic hotspot for this activity and the resulting concentration of shipwrecks is unparalleled in the nation.
From this activity, the waters off North Carolina are recognized as the area that best represents this World War II history as a battlefield in the United States. In just three years, from 1942 to 1945, 90 ships were lost off North Carolina alone as a result of this action. The result is an amazing collection of 78 merchant tankers and freighters, eight Allied warships, and four German U-boats resting on the seabed as a memorial to this history and to the sacrifice of Allied servicemen and the U.S. Merchant Marine in World War II. Monitor National Marine Sanctuary's proposed expansion boundaries contain the most publicly accessible collection of World War II shipwrecks near America's shore and would constitute the largest area designated as a World War II battlefield anywhere in the United States.
This area is also significant to our national story as it contains other shipwrecks as well, some dating from the Age of North American Exploration to present day. While North Carolina has a rich and diverse maritime heritage, NOAA's primary focus for expanding the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary boundary is centered on North Carolina's collection of shipwrecks from World War II's Battle of the Atlantic.
Sanctuary Expansion Process
The process for Monitor National Marine Sanctuary boundary expansion was initiated following a recommendation from the Sanctuary Advisory Council's Expansion Working Group and has these basic steps:
NOAA published a Notice of Intent to consider possible expansion of Monitor National Marine Sanctuary in January 2016, and asked the public for input on potential boundaries; resources to be protected; issues NOAA should consider; and any information that should be included in the resource analysis.
2. Proposed Expansion
In response to public scoping, NOAA is analyzing a range of expansion boundary alternatives and proposed regulations.
Pursuant to the National Environmental Protection ACT (NEPA), NOAA is developing a series of draft documents including a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Draft Management Plan, and Draft Regulations for a proposed expansion in consultation with appropriate local, state, and federal agencies and public partners.
4. Public Review
The public, local, state and federal agencies, and other stakeholders will provide input on the DEIS during a 60-day public comment period. NOAA will consider all input and determine appropriate changes.
5. ADVISORY COUNCIL REVIEW & RECOMMENDATION
The Sanctuary Advisory Council's recommendation is a continuation of an ongoing effort by the sanctuary to work closely with community and stakeholder groups. Following the advisory council's review of the proposed expansion alternatives, NOAA will also evaluate the advisory council's recommendation and revise the preferred alternative, as appropriate
NOAA will develop the Final Environmental Impact Statement, Final Management Plan, and Final Regulations for the proposed expansion in consultation with appropriate local, state, and federal agencies and public partners.
7. PROPOSED RULEMAKING
NOAA will issue and take public comments on a proposed final rulemaking to implement the expansion proposal prior to finalizing a decision. NOAA will consider all input and determine appropriate changes.
8. SANCTUARY EXPANSION
NOAA will announce a final decision on the proposed boundary expansion.
NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary System
The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries serves as the trustee for a network of underwater parks encompassing more than 600,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters from Washington state to the Florida Keys, and from Lake Huron to American Samoa. The network includes a system of 13 national marine sanctuaries and Papahānaumokuākea and Rose Atoll marine national monuments.
Through the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, NOAA can identify, designate and protect areas of the marine and Great Lakes environment that have special national significance.