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Rep. Pingree Introduces Working Waterfronts Bill

Wednesday, March 14, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Matt Gruhn
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Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) introduced H.R. 3109, the Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act of 2012, along with 17 original co-sponsors late in 2011. The bill is very similar to one introduced by Rep. Pingree two years ago, which had the support of several national and state marine trades associations, including MRAA. MRAA has joined a newly formed coalition organized to support the bill.

H.R. 3109 recognizes the importance of keeping water-dependent commercial activities in many coastal communities and specifically identified commercial fishing, recreational fishing, tourism, aquaculture, boat building, transportation, and "other” businesses that support these activities. For example, boat yards that support any of these activities would be included under the special protections of the bill. It further says these activities are dependent on coastal access in the form of docks, wharfs, lifts, wet and dry storage in marinas, boat ramps, boat hauling, repair, and construction facilities.

Many of these activities are threatened due to loss of access and the pressures of conversion to privately owned commercial and residential activities.

The bill sets up a grant program to establish a working waterfronts plan in coastal states. The bill authorizes $25 million in 2012, $50 million in 2013, and $75 million in 2014 and 2015. In addition, funds from the program could be used by a state to purchase working waterfronts or to acquire an interest in a working waterfront. The state may also allow a non-government organization to manage the properties. However, the bill requires the property be open to the public. Private clubs would not qualify for usage of the funds.

A working waterfront is defined as real property including support structures over water and other facilities that provide access to coastal areas and to people engaged in commercial waterfront activities.

The issue of working waterfronts has been one of considerable concern to boating and fishing businesses and trade associations. With the escalating property values on the waterfronts in most communities and the increasing pressures to develop waterfronts for residential use, many small marine businesses are squeezed from declining revenues and rising taxes. The commercial, cultural, and historical values of the working waterfronts are adversely impacted by private residential development with devastating consequences for any coastal communities.