Federal, state and local government representatives and organizations have formed a National Working Waterways & Waterfronts Coalition following a national symposium on the issue held last month in Portland, Maine.
Sea Grant programs from around the country, including Maine Sea Grant and Virginia Sea Grant, which were lead hosts of the symposium, will partner with the Rockland, Maine-based Island Institute, Coastal Enterprises Inc., and the Urban Harbors Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, to form an initial steering committee that will explore funding mechanisms and organizational structure.
The primary focus of the coalition is education and promoting awareness of the value of working waterways and waterfronts to local economies.
The term "working waterfront" means different things in different parts of the United States. A national hub will identify data, research and information needed to enhance and preserve the nation's working waterfronts, organizers said.
"We need to highlight successful models from around the country and we can already identify some 'best practices' for working waterways and waterfronts planning and protection," said Tom Murray, of Virginia Sea Grant, in a statement.
A second objective of the coalition will be to serve as a resource for policy makers at the national level.
For example, Larry Robinson, symposium keynote speaker and deputy administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, highlighted opportunities for the 220 people who attended the symposium to engage in the new national ocean policy. The coming reauthorization of the Coastal Zone Management Act also was identified as an ideal opportunity to secure support for water-dependent economies.
"Some of the key principles we've identified are vision, transparency, and partnerships," Natalie Springuel, of Maine Sea Grant, said in a statement. "We intend to reach out to those organizations and initiatives that have similar goals and interests in preserving what makes unique and thriving working landscapes."