ALEXANDRIA, Va. – As an increasing number of recreational boat marinas and launch ramps, repair yards, commercial fish docks, bait shops and other water-dependent businesses are being pushed off the waterfront due to residential development pressures, skyrocketing tax burdens and shortsighted planning, the Boat Owners Association of the United States (BoatU.S.) is asking for boaters’ help to preserve waterfront access, according to a statement it issued yesterday.
A bill now in Congress, H.R. 3223, would provide federal funding to coastal and Great Lakes states to help preserve and expand water access and protect working waterfronts, according to the association.
Introduced in June by Rep. Thomas Allen (D-ME) and co-sponsored by Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) H.R. 3223, the “Keep our Waterfronts Working Act” would provide matching grants through state coastal zone management programs to support “water-dependent commercial activities,” the association reported. Local governments could use grant funds to purchase a threatened marina outright, or a non-profit entity could obtain a grant to buy development rights in order to keep a working boatyard, public marina, fish wharf or crab wholesaler in business, rather than sell out to a residential developer, BoatU.S. stated.
It is urging recreational boaters as well as any citizen with a desire to keep waterfront access available for water-dependent businesses to contact their member of Congress and ask them to co-sponsor the bill.
To be eligible, a state would have to develop a working waterfront plan and appoint an advisory committee to oversee the program. Grants made under the proposed legislation must “provide for expansion or improvement of public access to coastal waters,” the association reported. Purchases made through the grant program would require 25 percent of the total budget to come from non-federal funds. The act would provide $25 million, $50 million and $75 million to the states over three successive years.
The bill reflects a number of key concepts explored during last July’s “Working Waterways and Waterfronts Symposium” that was co-sponsored by BoatU.S. and Virginia Sea Grant to address the loss of recreational boating access, the association added.
“This legislation will place decision-making much closer to the people and businesses that depend on our waterfronts,” said BoatU.S. Assistant Vice President of Government Affairs Ryck Lydecker.
Boating businesses can direct their customers to visit www.BoatUS.com/gov/workingwaterfronts for more information or for help emailing a letter to their member of Congress.
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