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Pingree’s Bipartisan Legislation to Protect America’s Working Waterfronts Passes House

Washington, December 10, 2019

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine)’s bipartisan bill, H.R. 3596, the Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act, today passed the House of Representatives on a 262-151 vote.

“More than 30,000 Mainers rely on marine-related industries for their livelihoods. Yet out of five thousand miles of coastline, just 20 miles of workable waterfront remains in the state,” said Pingree. “Coastal communities across the country are feeling the same squeeze. Further reducing our usable coastline will adversely impact everything from aquaculture and boatbuilding, to coastal tourism and commercial fishing.”

Watch Pingree’s full floor speech on H.R. 3595 here.

Pingree’s bill seeks to preserve the character of coastal communities by protecting jobs, commercial activities, and public access to America’s coast. H.R. 3596 would:

  • establish a Working Waterfront Grant Program to provide matching, competitive grants to coastal states to help preserve and expand access to coastal waters for water-dependent businesses
  • create a five-year pilot for a loan fund for waterfront preservation, modeled after state drinking water loans
  • authorize $12 million each for both the loan and grant programs
  • organize a Working Waterfront Task Force at the Department of Commerce to identify and prioritize critical needs for working waterfronts, especially in the face of the climate crisis and increased trade threats.

Pingree’s bill passed as a part of H.R. 729, a package of ten bipartisan bills aimed at protecting vulnerable coastal and Great Lakes communities impacted by the climate crisis.

Pingree has long advocated for federal resources to help Maine communities preserve and expand shoreline access and infrastructure for water-dependent industries, such as fishing, boat building, and aquaculture. Her bill to study and combat ocean acidification, H.R. 1716, the Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act, unanimously passed the House of Representatives on June 5, 2019.

SUPPORT FROM MAINE STAKEHOLDERS

“The Keep America's Waterfronts Working Act will help Maine's coastal communities preserve, improve, and protect waterfront infrastructure vital to the state and the nation's coastal economy. Working waterfronts are critical, around that nation, for access to coastal and marine resources, from fish and shellfish to offshore wind. The Working Waterfront Grant Program would provide essential support for coastal communities, including recreational and commercial businesses throughout Maine and the US, to plan for and adapt to changing economic and environmental conditions.” –Gayle Zydlewski, Director of Maine Sea Grant

“We support LD 3596, Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act. As a nonprofit dedicated to improving and protecting the health of Casco Bay, Friends of Casco Bay understands that globally we must reduce the causes of climate change, and locally we must find solutions to the inevitable consequences of our climate crisis. LD 3596, Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act, properly supports and funds localized solutions that can help keep Maine’s marine waters and economy healthy and vital.” –Ivy Frignoca, Casco Baykeeper, Friends of Casco Bay

“Fishermen are a crucial part of our food system and supply our nation with high quality sustainable seafood from wild harvest and aquaculture sources. 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.” –Ben Martens, Executive Director, Maine Coast Fisherman’s Association

“Representative Pingree’s bill provides critical support needed by our coastal communities in the face of new challenges. 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. It is essential that we back these working waterfronts as they are vital to our coastal and marine economy. With valuable resources and thoughtful planning for America’s seaside, Pingree’s bill prepares our coastlines to sustain and support coastal businesses and industries well into the future. This legislation, coupled with conservation-minded fisheries policy that promotes both healthy fish populations and community-based fishing interests, will ensure continuous access to locally important wild-caught seafood and rewarding recreational experiences for everyone. We encourage the Senate to quickly take up and pass this package of crucial shoreline protections.” —Rob Vandermark, Executive Director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network 

“As chair of the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee, I know how crucial our working waterfronts are to Maine’s culture and economy,” said Sen. Miramant. “I’m grateful for Congresswoman Pingree’s work on this bill, which will help ensure that our working waterfronts continue to thrive for future generations. She and I will always do everything we can to protect our fisheries, natural habitat, and recreational areas up and down the coast.” –State Senator Dave Miramant, Chair of the Marine Resources Committee

“The future of Maine’s coastal communities is closely tied to the future of working waterfronts. As working waterfront infrastructure and associated businesses face a variety of external threats, additional support is warranted. Representative Pingree’s long time dedication to preserving working waterfronts highlights Maine’s ability to lead in modeling coastal community sustainability.” –Rob Snyder, President of the Island Institute

“The National Working Waterfront Network (NWWN) supports H.R. 3596, the Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act. The NWWN increases the capacity of those who rely on, support, and enhance our nation’s working waterfronts and waterways to ensure continued viability. Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act will provide opportunities for meaningful dialogue, funding and planning for our working waterfronts.” –Nicole Faghin, National Working Waterfront Network

“New England’s coastal communities are on the frontlines of climate change. This bill is a step toward keeping Maine’s waterfront economy and culture alive. We appreciate Rep. Pingree’s leadership on this important issue.” –Sean Mahoney, Executive Vice President and Director of CLF Maine

Full text of Pingree’s remarks on the House floor is as follows:

I rise today in support of H.R. 729, which includes my bipartisan bill to protect America’s working waterfronts at a time when environmental pressures and rapid development threaten their future. 

More than 30,000 Mainers rely on marine-related industries for their livelihoods. Yet out of five thousand miles of coastline, just 20 miles of workable waterfront remains in our state.

Coastal communities across the country are feeling that same squeeze.

Further reducing our usable coastline will adversely impact everything from aquaculture and boatbuilding, to coastal tourism and commercial fishing. 

My bill will help to reverse this disturbing nationwide trend of shrinking waterfronts. It will protect jobs and preserve the character of coastal communities.

 It establishes a Working Waterfront Grant Program and a five-year loan fund pilot program for waterfront preservation.

It sets up a Task Force within the Department of Commerce to identify and prioritize critical needs for the nation’s working waterfronts.

Through the task force, the bill will also help communities identify and mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis.

At a time when 42 percent of Americans live in coastal communities, this Task Force is not only a vital planning measure for today, it will support the generations who will follow us.

For eight years, the House leadership on the other side stalled critical initiatives like this one to address the climate crisis.

The scope and severity of this crisis requires comprehensive action. And though my bill addresses just one small piece, it will make all the difference for communities in my state and across the country.

I urge my colleagues to join me in support of working waterfronts and vote yes on this bill and I yield back.

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