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Pingree, Wittman Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to Preserve Working Waterfronts

U.S. Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.) today reintroduced the bipartisan Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act, legislation to preserve America’s working waterfronts by creating a grant program and preservation loan fund to provide funding options for waterfront preservation and improvement projects. The bill would also establish a Working Waterfronts Task Force at the Department of Commerce. These resources would support coastal communities grappling with the climate crisis and preserve the character of coastal communities by protecting jobs, commercial activities, and public access to America’s coast. The legislation passed the House in the 116th Congress.

“More than 30,000 Mainers rely on marine-related industries for their livelihoods. Yet out of 5,000 miles of coastline in Maine, just about 20 miles of working waterfronts remain. Working waterfronts are rapidly disappearing nationwide due to heavy development pressure. When fishermen must grapple with the loss of wharves, processing facilities, and other essential infrastructure in addition to navigating the challenge of climate change, it threatens the very survival of our coastal communities,” said Pingree. “Throughout my tenure in Congress, I have been proud to work across the aisle with my colleagues to create bipartisan solutions that can work for America’s coastal communities. My and Congressman Wittman’s bipartisan Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act will help reverse a worrying trend of shrinking waterfronts, while simultaneously protecting jobs and preserving the character of our coastal communities. Working waterfronts are an integral part of our coastal economies, communities, and traditions. We must do our part to ensure they survive into the future.”

"Deteriorating waterfronts don’t just hurt the American economy; they hurt the bedrock of our coastal communities, particularly in Virginia’s 1st District. These waterfronts support our local businesses, offer recreational access to water, and enhance the quality of life for so many people. Unfortunately, population growth and development threaten Virginia's water-dependent industries and the families deeply rooted in our region's cultural heritage,” said Wittman. “The Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act is a vital safeguard, shielding coastal communities by bolstering the maritime industry, preserving jobs, and preserving our natural resources. I’m proud to partner with Congresswoman Pingree on this critical piece of bipartisan legislation.” 

Pingree and Wittman’s bill offers much needed support to states, Tribes, and municipalities seeking to preserve these invaluable spaces, while also making sure that they remain relevant for contemporary and future activities.

The Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act:

  • Establishes a Working Waterfronts Grant Program to provide matching, competitive grants to coastal states, Tribes, and Native Hawaiian Organizations to help preserve and expand access to coastal waters for water-dependent businesses.
  • Creates a loan fund for working waterfronts preservation, modeled after state drinking water loans.
  • Authorizes $50 million each for both the loan and grant programs.
  • Organizes a Working Waterfronts 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.

This bill would enable coastal states, Tribes, and communities to determine what kinds of working waterfront projects are most important to them. States with approved working waterfront plans would be eligible to apply for both grants and loans, which they could then allocate to local governments, agencies, and nonprofits.

The legislation is supported by: The National Working Waterfront Network, East Coast Shellfish Growers Association, The Conservation Fund, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, Island Institute, Maine Department of Marine Resources, Maine Lobstermen’s Association, Fishing Communities Coalition, Conservation Law Foundation Maine, The Marine Fish Conservation Network, The Working Waterfront Coalition of Whatcom County in Washington state, Friends of Casco Bay, Sea Meadows Marine, and Chris Warner –Shellfish harvester, oyster farmer, and realtor. 

"Heightened demands on working waterfronts in the last decade bring into sharp focus the need for federal legislation such as the 'Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act.' US coastal communities are grappling with the development of offshore renewable energy, the impacts of climate change on coastal property and fishery resources, aquaculture siting, and other pressing issues,” said Kristin Uiterwyk, Chair of The National Working Waterfront Network, a nationwide network of businesses, industry associations, nonprofits, local governments and communities, state and federal agencies, universities, Sea Grant programs, and individuals dedicated to supporting, preserving, and enhancing our nation’s working waterfronts and waterways. “The proposed legislation includes important stepping stones to support our working waterfronts with the designation of a task force to oversee the preparation of waterfront plans making coastal communities eligible for federal funding. These are critical efforts to ensure the economic and social health of our working waterfront communities." 

"Working waterfronts are a crucial part of our local food infrastructure and we are in desperate need of resources to help update, innovate, and preserve fishing and seafood access to our oceans. Investing in our working waterfronts is crucial to keeping seafood local, fishing families anchored close to home, and protecting the very soul of coastal communities that fishing has been a part of for generations,” said the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association

“Lobstering is the backbone of our coastal communities, yet only about 20 miles of our roughly 5,000 mile coastline is reserved for the working waterfront. Lobstermen could not make a living from the sea if they aren’t able to get to it,” said Patrice McCarron, Policy Director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. “The economic pressure on what little working waterfront remains continues to increase. The Maine Lobstermen’s Association commends Representative Pingree for her steadfast commitment to protecting working waterfront to ensure access for fishermen and preserving the unique character of our fishing communities.”

"The Keep America's Waterfronts Working Act includes creative approaches to preserve the infrastructure that community-based commercial fisheries across the country depend on. The bill's sponsors are advancing intelligent investments in working waterfronts to harden up to threats like gentrification and climate change. The members of the Fishing Communities Coalition applaud and thank Rep. Pingree and Rep. Wittman for introducing this important bill."

Additional supportive statements can be found here

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. She first introduced legislation to protect working waterfronts in the 111th Congress. 


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