|Keep America’s Waterfronts Working|
The loss of access to our nation’s waterways continues for boaters all across the United States. There are many reasons attributed to this crisis, including population increases, rising coastal property values, increasing residential development and burdensome permit processes for marinas.
Nationwide, competition for limited access at boat ramps and marinas is increasing as these vital facilities go the way of alternative development. Recreational boating and fishing are valuable American traditions that bring important economic benefits to waterfront communities.
H.R. 2548, Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act of 2009, introduced by Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine, amends the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 to establish a competitive matching grant program administered through the Department of Commerce. This legislation would ensure the economic health of waterfront communities through the protection, preservation and expansion of the nation’s working waterfronts.
The legislation would preserve access to coastal waters for commercial fishing operations and other water-dependent coastal-related businesses, including recreational boating access. Grants made under the legislation 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.
The legislation would create a federal grant program to acquire working piers and other points of waterfront access and provide funding for waterfront planning. This program would allow states and local communities to support and protect places along the coast where commercial fishermen, boat builders, excursion and tour boat operators and other small businesses operate. By providing coastal states with federal matching grants to purchase development rights and make improvements to working waterfronts, this bill would help protect the public’s ability to access the nation’s waters. This year, Congress began the process of reauthorization of the Coastal Zone Management Act, creating a significant opportunity for this bill to become law.
The Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife, held a hearing on H.R. 2548 in October. Despite significant bipartisan support, the Obama administration has indicated it opposes the bill. NMMA is encouraging members of Congress to support this legislation and help address the growing issue of the loss of water access for recreational boaters, and will also encourage the Obama administration to reconsider its opposition.
Boaters and anglers are urged to contact their representatives of Congress to co-sponsor and support H.R. 2548, the “Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act of 2009.”