Functioning waterfronts are a dying breed.
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.
Even party and charter boat fleets are getting pushed out from the only place they can do business.
A bill now in Congress would provide federal funding to coastal and Great Lakes states to help preserve and protect working waterfronts. Boat Owners Association of The United States is urging boaters and anglers to contact their members of Congress to co-sponsor and support H.R. 2548, the "Keep America's Waterfronts Working Act of 2009."
Introduced in May by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and co-sponsored by Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), the legislation would allow local governments to use federal grant funds to purchase a threatened marina outright. 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.
In introducing her bill, Rep. Pingree said, "Water-dependent, coastal-related businesses are economically and culturally important places to many coastal communities and working waterfronts are quickly disappearing under the tremendous pressures from incompatible uses."
The passage of H.R. 2548 would be particularly timely in that it would amend the federal Coastal Zone Management Act, which is now up for congressional reauthorization.
Grants made under the Pingree bill must "provide for expansion or improvement of public access to coastal waters" and be matched at 25 percent by non-federal funds. The act would authorize $25 million, $50 million and $75 million to the states over three successive years.
To be eligible for grant funding, a state would have to develop a working waterfront plan and appoint an advisory committee to oversee the program.
"That would put decision-making where it should be, closer to the people and the businesses that depend on the waterfront in a given state," said Ryck Lydecker, Assistant Vice President of Government Affairs for BoatUS.