No decision soon on Sturgeon Bay hosting a NERR estuary research center | Green Bay Press Gazette

STURGEON BAY – With another step completed toward designating sections along the bay of Green Bay as a National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), Sturgeon Bay is still in the running to not only be part of the reserve but also play host to a NERR research center and education/visitor center.

Just don’t expect a decision on the latter in the immediate future.

The most recent step, the third of six on the way to final NERR designation, came Jan. 25 when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) accepted the nomination from the state of Wisconsin for specified areas on and along the bay to become the state’s second NERR site.

With acceptance of the nomination, the state, with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay leading the state’s effort, and NOAA can begin the next steps to designate the proposed areas as a reserve: Conducting public outreach, tribal engagement and developing a draft environmental impact statement and management plan.

Under the direction of NOAA, a NERR is a coastal site designated to protect and study estuary systems, the ecosystems where rivers and lakes, seas or oceans come together. A NERR is a partnership program between NOAA and the states where the NERRs are located. NOAA provides funding and national guidance, but sites are managed locally by a state agency or university with input from local partners.

The NERR website says estuaries generally play host to a wide variety of plant and animal life, in the water and on the shores, plus they can filter pollutants and provide shelter for fish and shore animals. They’re also often popular areas for outdoor and water recreation, and because NERR designation is nonregulatory, no change would be seen to any activities on water or land within the site, whether for recreational or commercial purposes.

Thirty NERRs have been designated thus far in the U.S., but just two are on the Great Lakes and one in Wisconsin, in and around Superior at the confluence of the St. Louis River and Lake Superior. The ecosystem of the bay of Green Bay is the world’s largest freshwater estuary, according to a news release from UW-Green Bay.

The proposed Sturgeon Bay area for the Green Bay NERR includes shoreline and some inland areas on the west side of the Sturgeon Bay canal along with areas on the other side of the canal east of 42/57 south of Michigan Street. Also part of the proposed NERR are recommended sites along the Peshtigo River in Peshtigo and part of the bay in and around metropolitan Green Bay that includes the Ken Euers Nature Area, Green Bay Shores State Wildlife Area and Point au Sable.

“The proposed boundaries are what was submitted to NOAA. Those are the state-preferred boundaries,” said Emily Tyner, UW-Green Bay Director of Freshwater Strategy and the state lead on the designation process.

The NERR will include an education and research center, and Sturgeon Bay hopes those are located in the city, but their location probably won’t be determined until NOAA officially designates the NERR – and Tyner said that’s not expected until the spring of 2025. Right now, Tyner said, the focus is on developing the draft environmental impact statement and management plan. She said NOAA then considers those as well as input from the public and interested groups on those two drafts.

She also noted other communities located within the proposed NERR have shown interest in becoming the home of the education and research centers. It is a competitive process, and the Sturgeon Bay City Council formed an an Ad Hoc NERR Advisory Committee in 2021 that put together a prospectus, submitted to the NERR leaders at UWGB last spring, on the city’s interest and qualifications to host those centers.

“That process (of choosing a visitor and research center site) is separate from the process we’re going through now,” Tyner said. “We haven’t taken any action because we have these two big projects right in front of us. I do know there’s a lot of community interest from Sturgeon Bay and others.”

People in Door County can learn more about the proposed NERR when Tyner gives a talk on it at 7 p.m. March 14 as part of the “Fish Tales” speaker series at Crossroads at Big Creek.

Also, NOAA and UWGB are holding two meetings open to the public March 19 to solicit comments on significant issues related to developing the draft environmental impact statement. A virtual meeting will be held at 10 a.m. on Zoom, with an in-person meeting at 1:30 p.m. at the STEM Innovation Center on the UWGB campus.

NOAA will consider comments from these meetings, as well as written comments, before finalizing the drafts. Tyner said the final sites “probably won’t look wildly different” from the proposed sites unless there are significant (and unanticipated) environmental impacts that would prevent some sites from being used.

To join the Zoom meeting, visit (meeting ID is 999 0442 9917, access code is 826461), or participants can join by phone by calling 312-626-6799, using the same meeting ID and access codes as above. The afternoon session will not be streamed or broadcast.

For more information on the bay of Green Bay NERR effort, visit For more on Sturgeon Bay’s effort to be selected as a site for a NERR visitor and educational center, visit

Source: No decision soon on Sturgeon Bay hosting a NERR estuary research center

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