Working Waterfront Preservation Act Introduced in Senate

Sens. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, and Susan Collins, R-Maine. Photos: U.S. Senate.

Federal legislation that would provide $20 million annually to boost and protect working waterfronts has been introduced in the U.S. Senate. It is backed by the Fishing Communities Coalition, a national association of community-based small-boat commercial fishing groups.

The Working Waterfront Preservation Act, initiated with support from the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, was introduced Nov. 1 by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine and Jack Reed, D-RI.

“All across Alaska, fishing communities are facing infrastructure challenges and need upgrades to harbors and boatyards,” said Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association in Sitka, who helped to promote the legislation. “This bill would support that. It’s a great start.”

If approved by Congress, the measure would provide $20 million annually for the program through fiscal year 2028. Eligible entities include commercial fishing cooperatives, working waterfront owners and operators, non-profit organizations and municipal and state governments.

“The key to maintaining the vibrant character and economic productivity of any American port community is adequate support for its working waterfront,” Noah Oppenheim, coordinator of the Fishing Communities Coalition, said.

“Unfortunately, fishing communities across the country have been struggling to maintain working waterfront access in the face of gentrification, infrastructure issues, sea level rise, and countless additional challenges,” he continued. “This new program will preserve public access to working waterfronts in communities from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico, and Southern California to Western Alaska.”

The Fishing Communities Coalition represents over 1,000 independent seafood harvesters and business owners on the East Coast, Gulf Coast, West Boast and Alaska, who have a shared commitment to sustainable management of the nation’s fishery resources.