WASHINGTON, D.C. — Representatives Chellie Pingree and Rob Wittman, Va., are introducing bipartisan legislation to protect waterfront access and infrastructure.
"The importance of Maine's coastline to our state's economy can't be understated. It's not only the reason millions of people visit our state every year, but many industries — like fishing, boat yards, and aquaculture — simply can't operate without it," said Pingree, in a news release. "Development pressures mean that we've lost an enormous amount of working waterfront in recent decades. To ensure the future of these critical industries, Maine and other coastal states need tools to protect waterfront access and infrastructure. And that's what our bill aims to do."
Pingree and Wittman's bill, the Keep America's Waterfronts Working Act, would establish a Working Waterfront Grant Program that would provide matching, competitive grants to coastal states. The grants would go toward preserving and expanding access to coastal waters for commercial fishing, recreational guiding, aquaculture, boat building, and other water-dependent businesses.
The bill would also create a Working Waterfront Task Force at the Department of the Interior. The task force would identify and prioritize critical working waterfront needs with respect to their cultural and economic importance, climate change and other environmental threats, and market conditions for water-dependent businesses. It would also identify working waterfronts within communities.
"Strong working waterfronts are critical to the future of Maine's fishing communities and marine economy. Maine has less than 20 miles of working waterfront along our 3,500-mile coastline," said Nick Battista, Marine Programs Director at the Island Institute.
According to the National Working Waterfront Network, working waterfronts support over 3.4 percent of the country's total GDP, but there is no federal agency or program designed to help businesses, communities, and states protect these places.