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Feds hand out new boating grants

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced more than $12.2 million in grants to 10 states for projects to support recreational boating through the agency’s Boating Infrastructure Grant program.

The agency also will release about $2 million in grants to 21 states that are willing to match a smaller program within BIG.

Grants were extended to projects in Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

The recipients use BIG funds to construct, renovate and maintain marinas and other facilities with features for transient boats (those that stay 10 days or less) that are 26 feet or longer and used for recreation.

Recipients also may use the funds to produce and distribute information and educational materials about the program and recreational boating.

“Not only do these grants help create safe and accessible tie-up facilities, they provide an economic boost for local communities across the nation,” agency director Dan Ashe said in a statement.

“The BIG program works with partners to improve recreational boating and fishing opportunities. It strengthens community ties by enhancing access to recreational, historic, cultural, natural and scenic resources for millions of boat owners.”

The BIG program includes two funding tiers —Tier One (competitive in some states) and Tier Two (nationally competitive). Under Tier One each state, the District of Columbia and insular areas may receive funding for eligible projects of as much as $100,000 annually.

Tier Two funds, as much as $1.5 million annually per project, are made available through a nationally competitive process.

“State agencies ensure the success of the BIG program by bringing matching funds to the table for these projects,” said Hannibal Bolton, the agency’s assistant director for the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program. “In the past three years, states and their partners have supplied more than $50 million in matching funds to construct new transient boating infrastructure.”

Funding for the BIG program comes from the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, which boaters and manufacturers support through excise and other taxes on certain fishing and boating equipment and gasoline.

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