In an effort to protect working waterfronts, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI) have teamed up to introduce the Working Waterfront Preservation Act (S. 3180). This bipartisan bill would create a grant program to fund improvements to existing working waterfront areas, supporting the commercial fishing, aquaculture, boatbuilding, and for-hire recreational fishing industries that are so vital to the culture, heritage, and economies of seaside towns and cities.
“The hard working men and women that make up Maine’s maritime industries continue to lose access to the waterfronts that sustain them. Recent demand for coastal property has only intensified the problem both in Maine and across the nation,” said Senator Collins. “This bipartisan legislation would create a grant program to provide funding for municipal and state governments, nonprofit organizations, and participants in maritime industries to preserve and improve working waterfront property in our coastal states.”
“Working waterfronts are valuable resources that are absolutely critical to our economic future. Today, our working waterfronts face a growing number of competing pressures, from rising sea levels to surging real estate prices and economic development challenges. This new federal grant program would provide a lifeline to coastal communities to preserve, protect, and enhance working waterfronts, upgrade infrastructure, and ensure public access to the water,” said Senator Reed. “Passing this bill would help support and sustain fishermen and other hardworking men and women who make their living on the waterfront.”
“Providing a robust Working Waterfront is imperative to maintaining and sustaining a vibrant fishing community throughout Rhode Island. A healthy marine infrastructure is necessary to preserve the growth of our existing fleet, attract vessels from neighboring states and build incentives for shoreside businesses to invest in our communities. This is the Cornerstone of enriching our future for generations to come,” said Fred Mattera, the Executive Director of East Farm Commercial Fisheries.
“The key to maintaining the vibrant character and economic productivity of any American port is adequate support for its working waterfront,” said Noah Oppenheim, Coordinator of the Fishing Communities Coalition. “Unfortunately, fishing communities across the country have been struggling to maintain working waterfront access in the face of gentrification, infrastructure issues, sea level rise, and countless additional challenges. This new program will preserve public access to working waterfronts in communities from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico, and Southern California to Western Alaska. The members of the Fishing Communities Coalition express their heartfelt thanks to Senator Collins and Senator Reed for their leadership in introducing this key legislation.”
According to the most recent data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), commercial and recreational fisheries are responsible for more than 1.7 million jobs in the U.S., $253 billion in sales, and $117 billion in value-added impacts.
The Working Waterfront Preservation Act would establish a $20 million annual grant program for five years to help municipal and state governments, nonprofit organizations, and participants in maritime industries improve working waterfront property in coastal states. Grants would be administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA).
Applicants would be required to receive endorsements from relevant state agencies to be eligible for these grants. Eligible projects would be required to comply with state coastal shoreline access laws and regulations. Projects may include the construction or repair of wharfs or related facilities, improvements to help existing working waterfront properties withstand the impacts of climate change, and more.
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