New Coalition to Focus on Nation’s Working Waterways and Waterfronts

Contact Natalie Springuel, (207) 288.2944 x5834,

PORTLAND, Me. – At the conclusion of a national symposium here last week, representatives from federal, state and local governments and organizations announced the formation of a National Working Waterways & Waterfronts Coalition.

Sea Grant programs from around the country, including Maine Sea Grant and Virginia Sea Grant, who were lead hosts of the symposium, and Florida Sea Grant, will partner with the Rockland-based Island Institute, Coastal Enterprises, Inc., and the Urban Harbors Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston to form an initial steering committee that will explore funding mechanisms and organizational structure.

Rob Snyder of the Island Institute said that his organization identified working waterfronts in Maine and around the country as a priority area in their 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,” said Snyder.

The primary focus of the coalition is education and awareness of the value of working waterways and waterfronts to local economies. 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. A national hub will identify data, research and information needed to enhance and preserve the nation’s working waterfronts. “We need to highlight successful models from around the country,” said Tom Murray of Virginia Sea Grant, “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. For example, symposium keynote speaker and NOAA Deputy Administrator Dr. Larry Robinson highlighted opportunities for the 220 people gathered at the symposium to engage in the new National Ocean Policy. The upcoming reauthorization of the Coastal Zone Management Act also was identified as an ideal opportunity to secure support for water-dependent economies. Coalition members hope that an organized presence will leverage support for several bills under consideration in both the House and Senate that would provide funding to keep working waterfronts and waterways intact.

“Some of the key principles we’ve identified are vision, transparency, and partnerships,” said Natalie Springuel of Maine Sea Grant. “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.”