Protecting Maine's Working Waterfronts

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State Programs That Support Working Waterfronts

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Maine's Coastal Policies

Of the nine coastal policies that the State Legislature enacted in 1986 to guide coastal management, two are particularly important for working waterfront projects.

Policy #1: Promote the maintenance, development and revitalization of the State's ports and harbors for fishing, transportation and recreation. The Maine Department of Transportation, the Maine Department of Marine Resources, the Maine Coastal Program, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development work cooperatively with local communities toward this goal. With state and federal support, many communities have undertaken waterfront revitalization projects-such as rebuilding old fishing piers, recruiting water-dependent businesses, adding parking lots, and improving boat launch and storage options. Under the Resources section of this web page, you will find information on some of the state grant programs and technical assistance opportunities that can help towns meet the fishing and transportation needs of their working shorefronts.

Policy #3: Support shoreline management that gives preference to water-dependent uses over other uses; that promotes public access to the shoreline and that considers the cumulative effects of development on coastal resources. Realizing these goals requires careful planning at both state and local levels. The comprehensive planning process described on this site can help your community realize its goals for future waterfront uses. Staff at the Maine Coastal Program and Regional Planning Councils can provide resources and technical assistance in the planning process. The State provided funding support for this policy in creating the Land for Maine's Future Program's Water Access Fund, which provides local communities with grants to acquire new lands that offer public access to coastal and inland waters.

Case Study: Bringing New Business to the Waterfront

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Shore Access Grants

The Bureau of Parks & Lands at the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry administers the Boating Facility Grant Program to assist towns, cities and other public and private agencies in the acquisition, development and maintenance of public boating facilities on both coastal and inland waters. Sites on both tidal and non-tidal waters are eligible, whether they provide "hand-carry" or trailered launching facilities (with priority given to sites that can accommodate both motorized and non-motorized watercraft). Grants may be in cash or materials (such as floats or concrete planking). For further guidelines, please visit or call the Bureau at 207-287-3821.

To date, the State has helped provide access to Maine's lakes, ponds, rivers, and coast at almost 400 locations. Sites may have gravel or hard-surfaced ramps and may include boarding floats, rest rooms and picnic tables. A few sites only have canoe or carry-in access. Some ramps on tidal waters are "part-tide facilities" that are only available at high water. A brochure listing all the boat launches is online at or by calling 207-287-4952.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1964 (LWCF) was established to assist federal, state and local governments in the acquisition and/or development of public outdoor recreation facilities. Administered at the federal level by the National Park Service and at the state level by the Bureau of Parks and Lands (BPL) in the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry LWCF grants can provide up to 50 percent of the allowable costs for approved acquisition or development projects. A municipal agency that is interested in submitting a proposal should contact the Grants and Community Recreation Division of BPL or contact Doug Beck, Outdoor Recreation Supervisor (207-287-4962).

Case Study: Acquiring a Public Boat Launch

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Small Harbor Improvement Program

The Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) manages a Small Harbor Improvement Program (SHIP) that is designed to help municipalities make improvements to public wharves, landings and boat ramps. Past grants have covered expenses related to replacing floats and gangways; reconstructing or replacing piers and wharves; dredging; and purchasing land for a ferry dock and a waterfront park. The latest grant round (which closed March 1, 2004) had $750,000 in funds to distribute, with a $150,000 limit for a single grant request. Each applicant must demonstrate a local match of at least 25 percent, and every additional percentage point of match beyond that adds to the applicant's competitive score. (In-kind contributions are not counted toward the local match.) SHIP rounds are held when funds from transportation bonds permit, generally every 2-4 years. In the 2002 round, $1.27 million was distributed to 21 projects (in amounts ranging from $8,000 to $200,000). For more information on the program, contact Kevin Rousseau at the MDOT's Office of Freight Transportation (207-624-3565).

The MDOT Office of Freight Transportation helps to support trade and public transportation (such as the ferry system). The Maine Port Authority within MDOT oversees use of the three primary cargo ports (Portland, Searsport and Eastport) and provides innovative financing opportunities to public-private projects that improve transportation.

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Community Development Block Grant Program

Each year, the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development receives federal funds to assist low-income communities through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program. This program can support working waterfronts through its Public Facilities Grants (with awards up to $250,000) and its Economic Development Infrastructure Grants (with awards up to $400,000).

Many Maine communities have taken advantage of the Public Facilities Grants for boat landings and piers. Applicants must match the federal funds, which most do with a combination of local funds, SHIP funds, and other state or federal sources. Most grant recipients to date have received funding to build or rebuild access facilities on land already owned by the municipality.

Communities apply under the Economic Development Infrastructure category less frequently because to be eligible they must demonstrate that more than half their members are low to moderate income or that the project will create jobs for people in those categories. Quantifying that status can prove difficult for an entire community, but could be done by a smaller group such as a fishing cooperative. Jonesport has succeeded in getting two of these grants to help construct sheds for small-scale seafood processors (crab-pickers and scallop-shuckers) that conform to State health regulations--enabling the processors to stay in business.

For more information on the CDBG Program, contact the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development (207-624-9816). In applying for CDBG, communities can get technical assistance from their regional community development councils.

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Environmental Programs

Since 1993, Maine has had a Voluntary Remedial Action Program (VRAP/Brownfields) that promotes investigation, remediation and redevelopment of contaminated properties by offering program applicants liability assurances/protections from State enforcement actions. This program, administered through the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, can be used in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields funding program to help clarify liability and begin remediation at contaminated sites. For more information, contact Nick Hodgkins (207-287-4854).

Case Study: "Incorporating Environmental Remediation into Waterfront Planning"

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) administers Maine's Shoreland Zoning Law ( which requires that municipalities protect shoreland areas by adopting shoreland zoning maps and ordinances. Zoning ordinances provide for which activities can occur in certain areas (e.g., building size and setbacks, and the establishment of resource protection and other zones). Shoreland areas include areas within 250 of the normal high-water line of any great pond, river or saltwater body, areas within 250 feet of the upland edge of a coastal wetland, areas within 250 feet of the upland edge of a freshwater wetland except in certain situations, and areas within 75 feet of the high-water line of a stream.

Under its shoreland zoning ordinance, a municipality can create one or more "Commercial Fisheries/Maritime Activities Districts" to manage uses in working waterfronts. According to the legislation, the Commercial Fisheries/Maritime Activities District includes areas where the existing predominant pattern of development is consistent with the allowed uses for this district (see the DEP's Table of Land Uses, Section 14) and other areas suitable for functionally water-dependent uses (those that require direct access to water for their primary purpose and cannot be located away from the water). Each "district" can be as small as an individual land parcel, provided that the municipality includes in this district or combination of districts, all land currently occupied by or suitable for water-dependent uses. For more information on shoreland zoning, call (207) 287-3901.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has a Maine Pumpout Grant Program (PGP) that is designed enhance water quality in Maine's harbors by reducing emissions of human waste from recreational vessels (whether from malfunctioning or improperly emptied marine sanitation devices). Vessels are only permitted legally to dump raw wastes outside the three-mile limit, but many have traditionally emptied their tanks closer to shore. Few boaters realize that the untreated discharge from one weekend boater can contribute as much bacterial pollution to the surrounding waters as the treated sewage of 10,000 people. Untreated sewage contains disease-causing organisms such as bacteria, viruses and parasites that can pollute shellfish beds and endanger swimmers.

The Maine DEP works with coastal communities to help boaters handle their sewage responsibly, having it pumped out routinely. The PGP offers funds to help install pumpout stations, run mobile pumpout vessels, and educate boaters about appropriate sewage discharge. The PGP pays 75 to 90 percent of the cost of pumpout system installation, including construction and equipment costs, and cost of connection to the sewer system or a holding tank. Grants also are available to help with ongoing operation and maintenance costs of the pumpout system. There are approximately 80 facilities along the length of Maine's coast: the complete list is available from DEP by contacting Pamela Parker (207-287-7905). For more information specifically on pumpout grants, visit the web site DEP Pumpout Program.

Under the authority of the Natural Resources Protection Act (NRPA), the Maine DEP regulates coastal pier and wharf construction, maintenance, and repair (including dredging and filling operations). Under the Act, the State deems the following resources to be of state significance and hence eligible for special protection under the Act: rivers and streams, great ponds, fragile mountain areas, freshwater wetlands, significant wildlife habitat, coastal wetlands, and coastal sand dune systems. A permit is required when an activity such as dredging, bulldozing, filling, or construction will be located in, on or over any protected natural resource; or located adjacent to a coastal wetland; great pond; river, stream or brook or significant wildlife habitat contained within a freshwater wetland. Contact Maine DEP (207-287-7691) for more information.

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