NOAA, the state of Maryland and Charles County recently announced the designation of Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary.
The sanctuary will protect the remains of more than 100 abandoned steamships and vessels built as part of America’s engagement in World War I.
Located about 40 miles south of Washington, D.C., the site will be the first national marine sanctuary designated since 2000.
The state of Maryland nominated the area for sanctuary designation in 2014 to protect and conserve the shipwrecks and cultural heritage resources, to foster education and research partnerships, and to increase opportunities for public access, tourism and economic development.
The nomination enjoyed broad community support as well as strong support from the Maryland congressional delegation.
Located along an 18-square mile stretch of Potomac River coast in Charles County, Maryland, the new sanctuary boasts a collection of historic shipwrecks dating back to the Civil War, as well as archaeological artifacts nearly 12,000 years old.
The sanctuary includes sites that represent the history of Native American communities in the area, the once-booming Potomac River fishing industry and the Civil War.
Mallows Bay is most renowned for its “Ghost Fleet,” the partially submerged remains of more than 100 wooden steamships that were built in response to threats from World War I-era German U-boats that were sinking ships in the Atlantic.
Although the ships never saw action during the war, their construction at more than 40 shipyards in 17 states reflected the massive national wartime effort that drove the expansion and economic development of waterfront communities and maritime service industries.
The fleet was brought to the Potomac River to be salvaged for scrap metal by a company in Alexandria, Virginia, not far from the sanctuary site.
Today, nature has reclaimed the ships, with some appearing to look like long skinny islands of vegetation. The wrecks provide shelter for flora and fauna, including fish, beaver, and osprey.
NOAA, the State of Maryland, and Charles County will manage the national marine sanctuary jointly. NOAA’s sanctuary management actions primarily will be focused on protecting the Ghost Fleet and related maritime heritage resources.
Authorities related to natural resources and their management will remain with Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission, a multi-state agency.
source: Maryland Department of Natural Resources