The Working Waterfront

Collins offers working waterfront bill

Working Waterfront Preservation Act would provide funds

Posted 2023-12-18
Last Modified 2023-12-18

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Jack Reed have introduced the Working Waterfront Preservation Act. This bipartisan bill would help preserve access for fishermen and maritime workers to the waterfronts in coastal communities, 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 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.”

Reed added that working waterfronts “face a growing number of competing pressures, from rising sea levels to surging real estate prices and economic development challenges.”

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 grant program to help municipal and state governments, nonprofit organizations, and participants in maritime industries purchase or improve working waterfront property in coastal states. Grants would be administered by the Economic Development Administration, and successful applicants would need to be endorsed by state fisheries agencies. In order to be eligible for a grant, recipients would be required to permanently protect an area as working waterfront.

Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, expressed gratitude for the proposal.

“The working waterfront is our gateway to the amazing seafood we harvest here in Maine and around the country,” he said. “Without it, we lose crucial connectivity within our local food system and significantly reduce the opportunity that seafood represents.”

He thanked Collins for “continuing to advocate for Maine’s iconic fishing industry and fighting to bring much-needed resources and attention to our working waterfront communities.”

Patrice McCarron, president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, said that waterfront access is critical to the future of Maine’s lobster industry.

“You simply can’t make a living from the sea if you aren’t able to get to it,” she said.

Noah Oppenheim, coordinator of the Fishing Communities Coalition observed that “The key to maintaining the vibrant character and economic productivity of any American port is adequate support for its working waterfront,” but that “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.”

The program would preserve public access to working waterfronts in communities from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico, and Southern California to Western Alaska.