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Working waterfronts bill introduced again

Preserving access to the water continues to be a priority for the boating industry, which makes the introduction of the “Keep America’s Waterfront Working Act” of interest. Marinas, boat yards and boat dealers supported a similar effort a couple of years ago, according to Marine Retailers Association of America’s Washington lobbyist Larry Innis, albeit attempts to get it through Congress failed.

Still, second-term Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, hasn’t been daunted by the fact that her bill went nowhere the first time around. This session, she has rounded up 17 of her colleagues in the House from around the nation to sign on as co-sponsors of H.R. 3109. (You can watch her speaking about the bill at: http://youtu.be/06llZkQULlk )

H.R. 3109 would create a federal grant program to acquire working piers and other points of waterfront access and provide funding for waterfront planning. The proposal would allow states and local communities to support and protect places along the coast where commercial fishermen, boat builders, excursion/tour boat operators and other small businesses operate, including recreational boat yards and businesses.

Unrelated directly to H.R. 3109, but reflecting the same concerns, Pingree previously had announced the National Working Waterfronts and Waterways Council, which has several partners in Maine, would receive a $297,000 federal grant from the Economic Development Administration to help communities across the country protect their working waterfronts. The NWWWC is the result of Pingree’s call for groups to form a national coalition during a working waterfronts conference in Portland a year ago.

The NWWWC project will reach out to communities around the country to tell them the economic value of conserving working waterfronts. It will also create a toolkit of resources to help them do it. In essence, it will help those communities avoid wasting time, effort and funds “reinventing the wheel.” More specifically, the project’s work will include:

• Developing the toolkit to conserve waterfronts, including case studies of successful efforts, sample ordinances, and funding options.
• Reaching out to waterfront-dependent communities on the value of working waterfronts;
• Gathering data on working waterfronts’ economic value; and
• Studying best practices for outreach and education for communities.

Citing her state of Maine as an example, Pingree says: “Maine’s working waterfronts bring $800 million into our economy while supporting 30,000 jobs. They represent only 20 miles of our 3,300-mile coastline, meaning that a condo development here or a few summer houses there can swallow a huge portion of working land. It’s a growing threat around the country,” she adds. It spotlights the importance of the NWWWC project and the need to pass H.R. 3109.

FYI – Co-sponsors of H.R. 3109 include: Reps. Robert Andrews, D-N.J.; Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.; Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam; Lois Capps, D-Calif.; Donna M. Christensen, D-VI; Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va.; Sam Farr, D-Calif.; Bob Filner, D-Calif.; William R. Keating, D-Mass.; Barbara Lee, D-Calif.; Mike McIntyre, D-N.C.; James P. Moran, D-Va.; Michael Quigley, D-Ill.; Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y.; Paul Tonko, D-N.Y.; and Lynn C. Woolsey, D-Calif.

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