Guest commentary by Ed Perkins:
After attending the Sheboygan NOAA SEAS Facts Forum meeting on Sept. 21st, and after reading Kristyn Halbig Ziehm's report this last Wednesday, I want to share some further information on this meeting and the proposed Sheboygan Sanctuary.
First, I have yet to read any news coverage that stated that when the question was asked, "Do you oppose this sanctuary?" that 95% of the 75 or more attendees raised their hands in opposition to this sanctuary. About the only people who supported it were the NOAA staff, the Sheboygan mayor, and Steve Kroll, who said he was a volunteer from Alpena, MI, and a supporter wanting to see more marine sanctuaries. Mr. Kroll, as a supporter of the Alpena Sanctuary, when informed that Alpena voters voted against the Alpena Sanctuary didn’t even know this. He turned to Russ Green the NOAA Alpena Ass’t Director asking, “Is this true?” and Green said “Yes.” This fact along with others showed that Kroll lacked basic and important info concerning the Alpena, MI, Sanctuary, yet is a local volunteer supporter of it. Mr. Kroll is a diver and maybe that explains why he supports the sanctuary while others with other concerns do not. I would like to know whether Mr. Kroll was paid to appear on the panel.
Second, the issue of land owner and business rights and how NOAA has dealt with them in the past has received very little attention in the various forums, even though this is a big concern to many. At the Alpena, MI, sanctuary some of us have learned that current land owners with shore land have been prevented from even cutting their brush or cutting down any trees on THEIR property. Also, the NOAA has shown and stated they are not bound by local referendum when it comes to whether NOAA will proceed with a sanctuary. This was proven in Alpena, MI, when the residents there called for a public referendum vote. The results were 1770 opposed the marine sanctuary and 770 were for it. NOAA then determined it was in the best interests of the residents and land owners of Alpena and built the sanctuary.
Third, one of the arguments being used by NOAA and its supporters over the years has been marine sanctuaries will bring a significant economic benefit to the community. That has been proven NOT true in Alpena, MI, and elsewhere. In a study paid for by the NOAA and done by the Univ. of MI on page 85 of that report one will read that after 17 years, "...no significant economic benefit resulted at the Thunder Bay Sanctuary in Alpena." Further what is not acknowledged is that the Alpena sanctuary COST Alpena's taxpayers over $300,000 in additional property taxes because NOAA needed a bridge reconstructed for its bigger boats. Further, the price of fuel at Alpena marinas has increased when it should have gone down like our auto gas has over the past years.
Fourth, I find it of interest how so many in the media like, Ziehm's article, never acknowledge any of the above facts, never bring them up and when they are, brush them aside. I believe that is because there are vested interests that will profit and benefit from the sanctuary. Those include tourist and other related interests, government leaders who believe there will be economic benefit even though there is clear evidence to the contrary; and bureaucrats whose agencies will receive more federal and state funding. Remember, tourist jobs are mostly seasonal and part-time, not good paying jobs. These are the primary supporters of the Sheboygan NOAA Marine Sanctuary - not the local residents, businesses and taxpayers.
Finally, it is important to point out NOAA, along with the WI Historical Society have been promoting the WI Lake MI Sanctuary for almost 10 years. I and other Wisconsin voters and taxpayers first heard about this less than 6 months ago, long after our governor and several state elected reps signed on with their support. This is not how one reaches out in a positive way to gain support for a project impacting ALL of Wisconsin, and not the way to disseminate information to the public. NOAA has spent a large amount of money and staff time over the past 8 years to promote this and many other marine sanctuaries they wish to build. Like any bureaucracy they have "their" own interests. Question is whether those are "OUR" interests?