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Maine Sea Grant and Partners to Research Tools for Preserving Access to the Coast

Contact: Natalie Springuel, 207-288-2944 x298; Kristen Whiting-Grant, 207-646-1555, x115

ORONO, Me.– Maine’s coastal communities recently have acquired two legal tools to protect public access for traditional marine resource uses, or working waterfronts. While current use taxation and the working waterfront land bond are significantsteps forward, they are only a fraction of the legal or policy options available to protect coastal access for fishermen, boaters, beachgoers, and other users.

Recognizing the tremendous need for additional ways to protect coastal access, the National Sea Grant Law Center has awarded Maine Sea Grant, Maine Coastal Program, Marine Law Institute at the University of Maine School of Law, and the Island Institute $54,531 to research legal and policy tools available for protecting coastal access in Maine and across the country.

Some of the tools include: cooperative agreements between coastal property owners and waterfront users; land conservation; zoning options; tax programs; and Maine’s Right of Way Discovery Grants program. At the national level, Maine Sea Grant is leading an inventory of coastal access issues throughout the country. The new funding will allow case studies of best practices identified during this inventory to be converted into legal templates. The research will be conducted during the summer; in the fall, the project partners will use the research findings to develop published materials and training programs for citizens. “As a result of this legal research and outreach effort, we hope that citizens in Maine will improve their capacity

to address local access issues. Ultimately, building this type of local capacity could result in a reduction of the number of court-litigated coastal access conflicts,” said grant recipient Kristen Whiting-Grant, a marine extension associate with Maine Sea Grant and University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Whiting-Grant is based at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Maine is among only five states in the U.S. where coastal property owners hold title to the intertidal zone. In addition, of Maine’s vast coastline, only 25 miles remain available for working waterfront access. “Shorefront land use and development trends are changing the character of the coast, affecting both people involved in traditional fisheries who need places to moor their boats or access the mudflats, as well as residents and visitors who have long benefited from open access to the shore,” said Natalie Springuel, a Maine Sea Grant extension associate in coastal community development based at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor.

Springuel and Whiting-Grant, along with other partners at Maine Coastal Program, Marine Law Institute and the Island Institute, applied for the grant to research legal and policy tools for the protection of coastal access in Maine and the nation, which was one of 11 projects nationwide selected to receive funding. The grant competition is funded by the National Sea Grant College Program and administered by the National Sea Grant Law Center at The University of Mississippi. The National Sea Grant Law Center was founded in 2002 to provide legal research and outreach services to the Sea Grant community and its constituents.

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