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Public Statements

Keep America's Waterfronts Working Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

* Ms. PINGREE of Maine. Mr. Speaker, coastal communities across this Nation are in trouble. Economically important working waterfront jobs are disappearing. Businesses that require access to the water are closing their doors, fishing wharves are being turned into condos. And, the cultural identity of our waterfront communities is dissolving.

* I live in a community built around a working waterfront. My friends and neighbors on North Haven need access to the coastline to land their lobsters, store their bait, load and unload their lobster traps. They need a place to keep their skiffs and park their trucks. Elsewhere on the coast, working waterfronts are critical connections between the ocean and land for boat builders, marina operators, aquaculturists, seafood processors, charter boat captains and crew, recreational fishing businesses, and many others who require access to the water. These businesses need to be located on the water and require access to the water for their business models to work. Water dependent, coastal-related businesses are the cultural and economic heart of many of our coastal communities and working waterfronts are quickly disappearing under tremendous pressures from incompatible use and development trends.

* Of Maine's 3,300 miles of coastline, less than 20 miles support commercial fishing and other traditional marine-based activities. This small portion of the coastline contributes $800 million to Maine's economy and provides direct or indirect employment for about 30,000 people. As the coastline became more developed, traditional uses disappeared, giving way to condos, summer houses, and other non-compatible uses. These changes in how coastal communities use their land present one of the primary challenges facing Maine's working waterfronts.

* This problem is not unique to Maine, it occurs on all of our coasts and in the Great Lakes region. Across the country, working waterfront jobs are quickly disappearing under the tremendous pressure communities face from conversion to incompatible uses. Once these businesses close, once the waterfronts and waterways stop supporting water dependent businesses, the businesses do not come back. And, many states and local communities have recognized this dangerous trend and are taking action to preserve waterfront dependent businesses. In recognition of the national importance of working waterfronts, local community and state representatives have come together to form a national working waterfronts and waterways council that has helped put on symposiums that bring people to the table with the tools and knowledge needed to develop sustainable working waterfronts around the Nation. But, local communities and states need help at the federal level.

* It is time to help maintain working waterfronts through a federally authorized program that will serve to support, implement, and further develop working waterfront preservation efforts across the nation. That is why I am introducing legislation with Representatives Robert E. Andrews, Earl Blumenauer, Madeleine Z. Bordallo, Lois Capps, Donna M. Christensen, Gerald E. Connolly, Sam Farr, Bob Filner, William R. Keating, Barbara Lee, Mike McIntyre, James P. Moran, Pedro R. Pierluisi, Michael Quigley, Louise M. Slaughter, Paul Tonko, and Lynn C. Woolsey that encourages states to seriously think about these areas and how to best protect them. While recognizing the common problem of disappearing waterfront access for businesses, this program will also provide the flexibility that different states and local governments need to address working waterfronts around the Nation.

* Our legislation amends the Coastal Zone Management Act to establish a Working Waterfronts program. This legislation embodies the spirit of the CZMA in that it allows each coastal state to determine what working waterfronts are important to the people of that state, which working waterfronts are most threatened, and who should be protecting them--the state, local or regional government, or a collaborative public-private partnership.

* The CZMA was developed as a tool to allow states the flexibility to manage their coasts in a manner that fits that particular coast. The CZMA recognizes separate needs of various coastal states and provides the flexibility to states to manage their coastal resources. The working waterfront program creates a grant program that states can apply for. In order for states to be eligible for a working waterfront grant, the state must have a working waterfront plan that requires a thoughtful, collaborative, public process to identify the value and importance of working waterfronts. This bill is not designed to require states to undergo a completely new or comprehensive planning process but rather to utilize existing information, planning, and programs at state and local levels to the greatest extent possible. Finally, the bill provides technical assistance to the states to develop these plans as well as other tools to protect working waterfronts.

* Maintaining working waterfronts preserves and creates coastal jobs, but also jobs beyond the water's edge. Waterfront and waterway businesses support entire economies that depend on the American tradition of marine-based trades. The Keep America's Waterfronts Working Act of 2011 will serve to maintain jobs in our communities and maintain the American tradition of coastal and waterways industry.

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