Governor Mills Announces Applications for Funding to Help Working Waterfront Properties Rebuild from Winter Storms

Governor Janet Mills announced today that applications for funding are now available to help repair and rebuild working waterfronts damaged by the winter storms that hammered Maine’s coastline.

The $25 million in funding is available through the Working Waterfront Resilience Grant Program, a joint initiative from the Maine Department of Transportation, the Maine Department of Marine Resources, and the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future. The funding comes from the $60 million secured by the Governor, and approved by the Legislature, to rebuild in the wake of the terrible winter storms.

“Maine’s working waterfronts are the lifeblood of our coastal communities, and they were hit incredibly hard by last winter’s devastating storms,” said Governor Janet Mills. “This important funding will help rebuild damaged wharves and piers that commercial fishermen, and, by extension, our coastal communities and our entire state, depend on for our livelihoods and our economy. I hope this step forward, with more to come, can provide at least some sense of certainty as we look to rebuild stronger and better to preserve our working waterfronts for years to come in the face of worsening weather.”

“Maine’s working waterfront is the backbone of our coastal communities,” said Pat Keliher, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources. “We must rebuild this vital link in the supply chain that supports our valuable marine economy. This past winter’s storms are the new norm, and they have shown us how vulnerable it is. This is the first step in investing in this critical infrastructure. Our working waterfront must be preserved for future generations by ensuring it is resilient to a changing climate.”

“MaineDOT is pleased to use its ability to deliver infrastructure projects to ensure that the working waterfront infrastructure damaged by this winter’s unprecedented storms can be rebuilt and repaired expeditiously,” said Bruce Van Note, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation.“Our team is ready and able to deliver on this initiative for the State of Maine and support our fishing industry – a pillar of our state’s economy.”

“The intense storms in December and January have been a wake-up call about how vulnerable Maine communities are to effects of climate change, and how critical investments in resiliency are urgently needed,” said Hannah Pingree, Director of the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future and co-chair of the Maine Climate Council. “These funds proposed by Governor Mills, and approved by the Legislature, will help our working waterfronts rebuild more resiliently in the near-term, as we pursue strategies to strengthen our state’s infrastructure resilience over the long-term.”

Funding will be made available to help rebuild wharves and piers that provide a “significant and compelling community benefit” to Maine’s commercial fishing and aquaculture industries. Community benefit is evaluated by the number of vessels and fishermen using a property, as well as the number of people employed there. To be eligible to apply to the program, a property must serve at least 10 commercial fishermen or aquaculturists for the purposes of landing their catch or accessing their vessels for their commercial activities.

To ensure that the funding can support as many commercial fishing and aquaculture operations as possible, the State will first review and make awards to projects supporting 20 or more commercial fishermen and/or aquaculturists. If funds remain available after these projects have been reviewed and allocated, the State will then review projects supporting 10 or more commercial fishermen and/or aquaculturists.

Applicants may request up to $2 million toward design, permitting and construction costs for their project. Projects may include the reconstruction and improvement of the damaged wharf or pier as well as associated support buildings such as bait sheds, and systems like electrical and fuel. Funds awarded through the program may not be used to pay more than 50 percent of total project costs, with applicants providing matching funds equal to the total amount requested. Applications must show that the funding will support construction that makes properties resilient to future weather events.

The Department of Marine Resources, the Department of Transportation, and the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future will evaluate applications based on four criteria: project specifications and budget; climate adaptation and resiliency; the importance of the site to commercial fishing and aquaculture; and whether the site provides a community benefit.

The application and a Frequently Asked Questions document with additional information are available at Applications are due by no later than 4:30 p.m., Monday, June 10, 2024. Funds are expected to be available sometime in August.

Next week, the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development expects to make applications available for $10 million through the Maine Business Resilience and Recovery Fund, a new fund to provide grants for businesses and organizations, including nonprofit organizations, that have been affected by severe weather-related events. Projects receiving grants may include a recovery component for damage sustained and must include efforts to increase business resilience to future storms and other climate conditions.

The Maine Department of Transportation also expects to make available soon applications for $25 million through the Maine Infrastructure Adaptation Fund, which will provides grants for significant infrastructure adaptation, repair and improvements that support public safety, protection of essential community assets, and long-term infrastructure resiliency. Project types may include culverts, storm water systems, water system upgrades, and other interventions that support reducing or eliminating climate impacts, especially coastal and inland flooding.

Because the $60 million in storm relief, which was introduced by the Governor in February, was approved by the Legislature with a majority vote early this morning as part of the budget, it will become available 90 days following the adjournment of the Legislature. That is expected to be in August.