ORONO, Maine — A recently created coalition will work to raise awareness about the value to local economies of working waterways and waterfronts, the University of Maine has announced.
The National Working Waterways & Waterfronts Coalition was created last month during a national symposium in Portland attended by representatives from federal, state and local governments, private organizations and university groups.
Rob Snyder of the Island Institute said in a press release issued by UMaine that his organization identified working waterfronts in Maine and around the country as a priority area in its three-year strategic plan.
“It’s a key component to ensuring access to diverse, sustainable fisheries that are at the heart of traditional, marine resource-based communities,” he said.
The term “working waterfront” means different things in different parts of the U.S., but everyone attending the symposium last week agreed that water-dependent commercial uses are at the heart of working harbors, ports, villages and riverfronts, according to the press release. A national hub will identify data, research and information needed to enhance and preserve the nation’s working waterfronts, according to Tom Murray of Virginia Sea Grant.
“We need to highlight successful models from around the country,” he said, “and we can already identify some ‘best practices’ for working waterways and waterfronts planning and protection.”
A second objective of the coalition will be to serve as a resource to policymakers at the national level, the press release said. For example, symposium keynote speaker and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Deputy Administrator Larry Robinson highlighted opportunities for the 220 people gathered at the symposium to engage in the new National Ocean Policy.
The expected reauthorization of the Coastal Zone Management Act also was identified as an ideal opportunity to secure support for water-dependent economies, according to the press release. Coalition members hope that an organized presence will leverage support for several bills under consideration in both the U.S. House and Senate that would provide funding to keep working waterfronts and waterways intact.
The initial steering committee that will explore funding mechanisms and organizational structures will include representatives from Maine Sea Grant, the Rockland-based Island Institute, Virginia Sea Grant, Florida Sea Grant, Coastal Enterprises Inc. in Wiscasset and the Urban Harbors Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
“Some of the key principles we’ve identified are vision, transparency and partnerships,” said Natalie Springuel of Maine Sea Grant at the College of the Atlantic. “We intend to reach out to those organizations and initiatives who have similar goals and interests in preserving what makes unique and thriving working landscapes.”