Maine senator advocates grant program for working waterfronts
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has introduced legislation that would create a new grant program that would help the commercial fishing sector gain or preserve access to “working waterfront” areas.
“In Maine, our fisheries are one of our state's most important resources and are vital to our economy,” Collins said in remarks on the Senate floor. “A report of Maine's seafood sector as a whole, which included downstream contributors, found that in 2019, the sector contributed more than USD 3.2 billion [EUR 3 billion] to Maine's economy. Although the fishing industry is a significant economic contributor both nationwide and in Maine, it is losing access to the working waterfronts that are vital to the industry's survival.”
“In Maine our fishermen and women are losing access to waterfront property up and down the coast,” Collins added. “In some coastal Maine communities, once thriving working waterfronts no longer exist.”
The Working Waterfront Preservation Act would provide USD 20 million (EUR 19 million) to help improve working waterfront property. The federal program would mirror a program run by the state of Maine called the Working Waterfront Access Protection Program, which has helped preserve 34 waterfront properties, according to Collins.
Under the federal version, municipal governments, state governments, nonprofits, and industry groups would be able to apply for grants from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to protect properties designated as working waterfronts. State fisheries agencies would vet and endorse applicants to determine whether proposals fit the needs of each state.
“The legislation I am introducing today would help scale up that model program so that more communities can be assisted,” Collins said, adding that grant recipients would be “required to permanently protect an area as working waterfront to ensure that it can be used for commercial purposed for decades to come.”
Maine politicians have been advocating for the Working Waterfront Access Protection Program for years. Collins first introduced a version of the legislation in 2005, and fellow Maine lawmaker U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) has included the program in her Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act, which was last put forward in 2021. That legislation included a five-year pilot for a loan fund that could support preservation and authorized USD 15 million (EUR 14 million) for the two initiatives. Pingree has introduced versions of the legislation multiple times since 2009, but it has yet to pass both houses of Congress.
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