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Efforts underway to designate Bay of Green Bay a national research reserve

Published: Mar. 29, 2021 at 2:28 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The world’s largest freshwater estuary, the Bay of Green Bay, may one day receive a prestigious designation.

An effort is underway to recognize the bay as a national reserve.

After a 30-year effort to clean up, restore and protect the Bay of Green Bay, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, in partnership with local and national agencies, is leading the charge to continue that momentum by having the bay recognized as a National Estuarine Research Reserve.

“There’s been really tremendous work on restoration, on clean-up of the Fox River, the Cat Island Chains, so we really see this as an opportunity to celebrate all that’s happened and think about what the future of our area will look like around water,” says Emily Tyner, UW-Green Bay Director of Freshwater Strategy.

The national reserve designation is given by NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and would mean more than $1 million in federal and state funding per year for water research, education, stewardship and training starting in 2024.

“Because this is the world’s largest freshwater estuary, we hope that it would attract international attention. Researchers who care about freshwater systems and are doing restoration work in their areas can come and see what we’ve done on Green Bay and learn from us here,” says Tyner.

While a lot of progress has been made, the bay continues to face challenges -- and those working on continued conservation efforts says the designation will only further the cause.

“There’s a lot of areas around the Great Lakes that have significant water quality issues and so to have this designation would really just bring a lot of attention to the issues we still are facing,” says Erin Houghton, NEW Water Watershed Programs Manager. “Trying to really reduce the amount of sediment and excess nutrients coming from the surrounding landscape, from numerous sources, but really in an effort to try and improve water quality.”

One of the highlights of the NERR designation would be a state-of-the-art visitor center.

“That’s going to have education exhibits, dorm space, boat access, and a wet and dry lab, potentially a movie theater, other reserves have little movie theaters in them, kind of a central hub to organize and talk about and celebrate water,” explains Tyner.

To raise awareness and support, UW-Green Bay, local officials and representatives of NOAA are hosting a virtual public kick-off event on April 12 at 4 P.M. featuring U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin and U.S. Congressman Mike Gallagher.

For information on how to take part, visit https://www.uwgb.edu/national-estuarine-research-reserves/

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