Following several years of scientific and archaeological assessment and public input, NOAA has announced plans to consider possible expansion of Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, off the North Carolina coast, to honor mariners whose vessels went down during World Wars I and II.
Now limited to the area off Cape Hatteras where the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor sank in 1862, the proposal is to extend NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary to include ships sunk in what is known as “Torpedo Alley.” About 1,200 U.S. servicemen lost their lives in shipwrecks off the North Carolina coast – about half the total who died at Pearl Harbor.
A working group has developed four different expansion models, and is seeking public input. Plans include three varying approaches to protecting more shipwrecks in the area around the Monitor. A fourth would create three separate zones, including one off Nags Head.
Commissioners from Dare County - the easternmost county in North Carolina and which includes the Cape Hatteras National Seashore - have reasserted their objection to the proposals citing concerns the changes could eventually lead to unacceptable restrictions on commercial and recreational fishing.
“Expansion scares us. We’ve had a very pointed experience with the (National) Park Service where they’ve come in and closed all of our beaches. We’re not going to take that chance again.” North Carolina Public Radio cited Allen Burrus, a Dare County Commissioner.