Legislation to help coastal areas moves forward
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, recently announced the Senate has passed the Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act, aimed at helping coastal communities and stimulate coastal economic development.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Oregon, will now move on and await approval by the House of Representatives.
“Waterfront communities across Maine are a critical pillar of our state’s economy that help generate millions of dollars every year,” King said. “But these communities are also facing new challenges and changes — from confronting climate change to modernizing aging infrastructure.
“This legislation can be helpful in bringing together government resources so these communities will have improved access to the tools they need to grow, adapt and sustain themselves for generations to come,” King said.
A release from King’s office noted that many waterfront communities were built around their water resources long ago and are now faced with issues such as limited public access and poor alignment with modern development.
King said waterfront communities are facing pressures to meet increasing demands on water resources, protect against natural disasters and adapt to changing ecosystems.
This legislation tackles the issues by creating a voluntary Resilient Waterfront Community designation within the Department of Commerce that will identify communities and help them develop planning.
It will also establish a Resilient Waterfront Communities network to support sharing of best practices, highlight communities and help attract new investment.
The legislation will help communities who opt in, with the ability to connect with other waterfront communities around the country to support, share ideas and problem solve together.
Bill Magnum of the Holbrook Community Foundation is in favor of any state or federal assistance in preserving working waterfronts, like the foundation sought on the state level back in 2005.
“It was through the state working waterfront that we made an application for funds to help us acquire the property down there and we would never have been able to pull that property off without the help from the state,” Magnum said.
Magnum said he thinks the foundation was the first in Maine to secure working waterfront land through Land for Maine’s Future program through the Maine Department of Agriculture.
“We got a grant from them and in return we had to grant an easement to the state for that portion of the waterfront to be permanently set aside for commercial fishing,” Magnum said.
Magnum said that in the foundation’s experience Harpswell and the Cundy’s Harbor area have seen dramatically increased prices on waterfront properties, with many fishermen selling out their water access, making the area less and less available for commercial fishermen.
“That’s why we formed a nonprofit organization to acquire the property and make the application for the grant and then to rebuild the property — get it up to state standards. We’ve been operating it ever since,” Magnum said.
The Holbrook Community Foundation has been leasing space for commercial fishing on their wharf. They also lease to a small restaurant and store on the property.
Magnum said to the extent the waterfront legislation extends toward commercial fishing and related industries, he thinks it’s a great thing for the state.
With the high price of purchasing and maintaining waterfront properties and wharfs, Magnum said this bill may be a welcome bit of news.
King said waterfronts like in Cundy’s Harbor play a critical role in supporting the local and state economy.
“But, as we’ve also seen firsthand there, these communities also face serious challenges — from confronting climate change to modernizing infrastructure to adapting to an ever-changing, global economy,” King said.
King continued: “The Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act tries to make those challenges a little easier to overcome by sharing best practices from working waterfronts across the country so that communities like Cundy’s Harbor will have improved access to the tools they need to grow, adapt and sustain themselves for generations to come.”
• THE WATERFRONT Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act, introduced by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Oregon, will now move on and await approval by the House of Representatives.