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Saving marinas, boat yards and access must be pushed

Where have all the marinas gone? It’s a question we don’t want to be asking in the future. But we just may be if we don’t get to work on an issue that’s critical to our industry’s long term future. It’s saving the rapidly disappearing “working waterfronts” in America.

To reverse a trend that has developers wolfing down waterfront access sites for high rise condos, Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine has introduced H.R. 2548, the "Keep America's Waterfronts Working Act of 2009.” It’s a bill designed to give coastal and Great Lakes states federal grant funds to purchase threatened marinas, launch ramp sites, boat yards and commercial fishing docks outright. Further, it would also allow a non-profit group to obtain a grant to buy development rights in order to keep a working boatyard in business, rather than see it sold for residential development.

Right now, Pingree’s bill has 22 co-sponsors (see below). These lawmakers have clearly recognized the importance of keeping working waterfronts from disappearing. The bill deserves a lot more support, and the boating industry and boat owners need to step up and make that happen.

On Capitol Hill in October, Pingree testified before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife. That committee is chaired by Rep. Madeleine Bordallo of Guam, who is also a cosponsor of the bill. Moreover, despite significant bipartisan support for H.R. 2548, the Obama Administration has indicated it opposes the bill. For the moment, the bill remains in the Natural Resources Committee, awaiting some other legislation to which it could the attached or, although less likely, possibly moving ahead as a stand-alone bill.

MRAA, NMMA, BoatUS and other organizations are working to encourage the Obama Administration to reconsider its opposition. But in addition to that, we can all push to get our Congressional reps on board. New York Post columnist Ken Moran recently wrote: “Even in this slow economy, developers eye waterfront parcels and water-dependent businesses such as marinas, boat yards, commercial fishing operations and boat builders, and turn them into high-end residential communities.” That says it all!

Now is the time to email your Congressional rep and ask them to contact Rep. Chellie Pingree's office and learn about becoming a co-sponsor of H.R. 2548. Truth is, there shouldn’t be a Congress person whose district borders a Great Lake or any coastal area that wouldn’t want to be a co-sponsor. But, they need to be made aware the bill is there and you want there support for it.

In addition to those previously mentioned, current co-sponsors include: Capps, Calf.; Capuano, Mass.; Christensen, Virgin Islands; Connolly, Va.; Delahut, Mass.; Farr, Calif.; Filner, Calif.; Frank, Mass.; Hodes, N.H.; Inslee, Wash.; Kennedy, R.I.; Klein, Fla.; Kratovil, Md.; Langevin, R.I.; McGovern, Mass.; McIntyre, N.C.; Michaud, Maine; Moran, Va.; Thompson, Calif.; Tierney, Mass. and Wittman, Va.

If your representative isn’t on this list, ask why not?

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