Washington, D.C. – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced a $5 million investment from the Inflation Reduction Act to support the pre-construction and design requirements for a new visitor center at the Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary. The sanctuary, located in Charles County, Maryland, is home to a diverse collection of more than 100 known historic shipwrecks that date back to the Civil War, including the sunken remains of the largest “Ghost Fleet” wooden steamships from World War I.
The new interpretive center aims to make the sanctuary more accessible to the public, providing a place for people to learn about the sanctuary’s rich history and cultural heritage, including that of the Piscataway Conoy Tribe, the Piscataway Indian Nation of Maryland, and the Patawomeck Indian Tribe of Virginia, who have deep ties to the region. In addition to promoting education and tourism, the center is expected to drive economic opportunity by becoming a focal point for recreation and attracting visitors from around the nation.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo emphasized the significance of the funding, stating, “NOAA’s national marine sanctuaries facilities are a gateway to our greatest underwater treasures – and key to maintaining them. This funding for a visitor center at Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary is an important step towards increasing tourism and education efforts in the region, and it is a testament to President Biden’s commitment to investing in America.”
The initiative to secure federal funding for the Mallows Bay project was spearheaded by U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen, Ben Cardin, and Congressman Steny H. Hoyer, all representing Maryland. They worked diligently to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, the largest investment in climate and clean energy in American history, nearly one year ago.
Senator Van Hollen emphasized the importance of the Mallows Bay sanctuary, saying, “Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary is a Maryland gem that deserves national renown, and NOAA is helping that become a reality. This federal funding – that we fought for as part of the Inflation Reduction Act – will make Mallows Bay an even more compelling destination for Marylanders and visitors alike as we work to preserve this treasure for generations to come.”
Senator Cardin echoed this sentiment, highlighting the sanctuary’s significance in preserving Maryland’s tribal heritage and maritime history. “Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary is a Maryland gem that deserves national renown, and NOAA is helping that become a reality,” he stated.
Congressman Hoyer expressed his satisfaction with the federal funding announcement: “Mallows Bay is vital to our state and its coastal communities. This project will be a focal point for telling the story of Maryland’s rich cultural and ecological history.”
The Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary is part of America’s National Marine Sanctuary System, which includes a network of 15 national marine sanctuaries and marine national monuments, covering over 620,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters. The network aims to protect and preserve the nation’s underwater treasures and maritime history while providing opportunities for education and research.
The investment in Mallows Bay is just one part of a broader $3.3 billion funding initiative from the Inflation Reduction Act, enabling NOAA to support Americans in preparing for and adapting to weather and climate events, improving weather, ocean, and climate research through enhanced supercomputing capacity, strengthening NOAA’s hurricane hunter aircraft and fleet, and replacing aging NOAA facilities.
The plans for the new visitor center at Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary are expected to move forward in collaboration with the State of Maryland and Charles County, Maryland, co-managers of the sanctuary. The center’s development will provide an enhanced experience for visitors and serve as a testament to the commitment of the Biden-Harris Administration to invest in America’s natural and cultural treasures.
As the project progresses, it is hoped that the new interpretive center will draw in visitors from near and far, fostering an appreciation for the historical and environmental significance of the Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary and the surrounding region.