Federal legislation that would provide $20 million annually to boost and protect working waterfronts has been introduced in the U.S. Senate. The Working Waterfront Preservation Act was introduced Nov. 13 by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine and Jack Reed, D-RI.
If approved by Congress, the measure would provide $20 million annually for the program through fiscal year 2028. Eligible entities include commercial fishing cooperatives, working waterfront owners and operators, non-profit organizations and municipal and state governments.
The bipartisan bill would help preserve access for America’s fishermen and maritime workers to the waterfronts in coastal communities, supporting the commercial fishing, aquaculture, boatbuilding and for-hire recreational fishing industries.
“The hard working men and women that make up Maine’s maritime industries continue to lose access to the waterfronts that sustain them,” Collins said in a statement. “Recent demand for coastal property has only intensified the problem both in Maine and across the nation.”
“This bipartisan legislation,” she continued, “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.”
In his own statement, Reed said that working waterfronts provide critical access to the water and are valuable resources that are absolutely critical to our economic future, but that they 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,” he said. “Passing this bill would help support and sustain fishermen and other hardworking men and women who make their living on the waterfront.”
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.