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RELEASE: Wittman, Pingree Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to Preserve Working Waterfronts

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Congressman Rob Wittman (R-VA-01.) alongside Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME-01), today reintroduced the bipartisan Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act, legislation to preserve America’s working waterfronts by creating a grant program and establishing a Working Waterfront Task Force at the Department of Congress. 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 was passed in the 116th Congress but did not receive a vote in the Senate.

"Deteriorating waterfronts don’t just hurt our economy, they hurt our communities,” Wittman said. “These waterfronts support businesses, provide access to water, vitalize the economy, and improve quality of life for folks all over the country. Unfortunately, pressure from population growth and development threaten to displace Virginia’s many water-dependent industries and the families that have deep cultural ties to the area. The Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act will protect communities along our coasts by supporting maritime industry, protecting vital jobs, and preserving our natural resources. I want to thank Congresswoman Pingree for her partnership on this legislation, I look forward to the House passing this important legislation again, and hope to see it signed into law.”

“Coastal communities nationwide are facing mounting economic and climate-related challenges. In Maine, working waterfronts support thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of economic activity, but we’re under increased pressure to develop that space in ways that can be contrary to the needs of our heritage industries,” said Pingree. “The Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act will support efforts to preserve working waterfronts and guard against the effects of both developers and climate change. These waterfronts need support from the federal government to protect aquaculture, boatbuilding, coastal tourism, commercial fishing and many others—which are the economic and cultural hearts of our water-dependent communities.”

The Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act:

  • Establishes a Working Waterfronts Grant Program to provide matching, competitive grants to coastal states to help preserve and expand access to coastal waters for water-dependent businesses.
  • Creates a five-year pilot for a loan fund for working waterfronts preservation, modeled after state drinking water loans.
  • Authorizes $15 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 and communities to determine what kinds of working waterfront projects are most important to them. States with coastal zone management or working waterfront plans approved by the Working Waterfronts Task Force would be eligible to apply for both grants and loans, which they could then allocate to local governments, Tribes, agencies, and nonprofits.

The legislation is supported by the Conservation Law Foundation, National Working Waterfront Network Advisory Committee, Marine Fish Conservation Network, Bigelow Labs, Island Institute, Washington Sea Grant, Friends of Casco Bay, Maine Coast Fishermen Association, Maine Sea Grant COA Maine, Maine Department of Marine Resources, Maine Sea Grant College Program, Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries, Maine Lobstermen Association, Maine Lobster Dealers, and Maine Ocean Acidification Network. Supportive quotes are available online here.