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A variety of state agencies partner in the stewardship of Michigan's submerged heritage. State Historic Preservation Office archaeology staff determine the archaeological research potential, historical significance and interpretation of artifacts found on Great Lakes bottomlands. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) is responsible for the recognition of recreational opportunities; and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is responsible for enforcement of safe-boating and anti-theft laws, and maintains a growing storymap of Michigan shipwreck stories and discoveries. Together, these agencies oversee one of the strongest underwater preservation programs in the United States.
The fourth partner in Michigan's maritime heritage preservation is the public: families on vacation, avocational scuba divers, charter boat operators, business owners, and many others who value the history represented by the vessels and recognize the importance of preserving them.
The shorelines of the Great Lakes around Michigan are considerably more eroded than in recent decades because of record high lake water levels. Consequently, cultural materials including shipwrecks, parts of historic vessels, artifacts, abandoned docks, pilings, maritime landscapes, and prehistoric objects that had been buried in sediments or located in shallow water, are now exposed. The objects are now more accessible to researchers but are also more susceptible to natural deterioration and detremental human activities. As the lakes continue to rise, brief windows of opportunity exist to locate and archaeologically document these shoreline features. Citizen scientists and volunteers now have the ability to assist the State of Michigan in surveying its Great Lakes coastlines with the objective of locating the positions of cultural materials, photographing and recording preliminary observations of exposed materials, and compiling collected datafor further assessment and public dissemination. If you believe you have located maritime cultural materials, submit your findings using this form.
Michigan has a network of underwater preserves where snorkelers, scuba divers, and boaters can explore the wreckage of many types of vessels. EGLE offers information on all Michigan Underwater Preserves.
In October 2000, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) designated a national marine sanctuary in Thunder Bay at Alpena. The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve is the only NOAA freshwater marine sanctuary in the country. In addition to the collection of shipwrecks to explore offshore, a visitor center welcomes and interprets the stories of these underwater stories for those who prefer to stay on dry land. Administration of the sanctuary is a partnership between NOAA and the State of Michigan.