Working Waterfronts bill passes in the US House
The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, 10 December, passed legislation that would help ensure those who make a living on the water will have the space and resources they need to do their job.
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) said that while 30,000 residents of her state rely on marine industries, such as commercial fishing, only 20 miles of Maine’s shoreline is considered suitable for work. That’s why she sponsored HR 3596, the Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act.
“Coastal communities across the country are feeling the same squeeze,” she said in a statement after the vote. “Further reducing our usable coastline will adversely impact everything from aquaculture and boatbuilding, to coastal tourism and commercial fishing.”
Among the initiatives her bill includes are creating a grant program to provide matching funds for coast states that would allow them to set aside coastland for water-dependent businesses. It would also create a five-year loan program for waterfront preservation projects.
Each initiative would receive USD 12 million (EUR 10.8 million).
The bill had the support of several fishing and conservation groups, including the Maine Coast Fisherman’s Association.
“Fishermen are a crucial part of our food system and supply our nation with high quality sustainable seafood from wild harvest and aquaculture sources” said Ben Martens, the association’s executive director. “Much like we invest in local agriculture and infrastructure, we must to find ways to invest in our working waterfront to ensure access and opportunity for fishermen, families, and the next generation. This is a step in the right direction towards that end.
Pingree’s bill was part of a larger package of 10 bills seeking to protect communities on ocean and Great Lakes shores that have been affected by global warming. The bipartisan package of bills passed by a 262-151 vote.
Marine Fish Conservation Network Executive Director Robert Vandermark said in a statement Pingree’s bill works well with other bills in the “Coastal and Great Lake Communities Enhancement Package” that will now head to the Senate for its consideration.
“These areas are on the front line of climate change every day, facing rising sea levels, ocean acidification, continuing loss of shoreside infrastructure and shifting fisheries resources due to warming waters,” he said. “It is essential that we back these working waterfronts as they are vital to our coastal and marine economy.”
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