Shoring Up Support For America’s Working Waterfronts

2019-07-29T14:01:12+00:00 July 29, 2019|
(Credit: Allen Shimada NOAA/NMFS/OST/AMD)

(Credit: Allen Shimada NOAA/NMFS/OST/AMD)

From: Ocean News Weekly/ By: Ocean Leadership Staff 

What It Was

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Science, Oceans, Fisheries, and Weather held a hearing titled, “America’s Waterfronts: Addressing Economic, Recreational, and Environmental Challenges.”

Why It Matters

Coastal communities are essential to a successful blue economy. However, they face many challenges, from flooding to invasive species, that threaten their environments and economies. Revitalizing these communities and their working waterfronts in the face of these challenges will require incorporating resiliency into their plans. Proactive measures in diversifying a coastal community’s economy beyond traditional industries will strengthen cities and towns as they address ecosystem challenges.

Key Points

In her opening statement, Ranking Member Tammy Baldwin (WI) spoke about the need to revitalize waterfront communities, including cities and towns along the Great Lakes, as well as the potential they hold for new economic opportunities. She also shared the challenges these communities are facing to their resiliency.

Dr. Monty Graham (Associate Vice President for Research, Coastal Operations, University of Southern Mississippi) detailed Mississippi’s efforts to strengthen its coastal communities and waterfronts by expanding the state’s economy beyond the traditional industries of fishing, tourism, and shipping. This new blue economy will be built around emerging technology fields associated with unmanned maritime system construction and design. This workforce and industry diversification creates what Dr. Graham called a “resilience-based” economy, where a productive and diverse economy is inherently buffered after major disasters. This proactive approach allows for a quicker and more successful recovery than a disaster-based economy, which is mostly reactive and reliant on supplemental state and federal funds to rebound following a major disaster. He described how federal legislation such as the Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act of 2018 (S.3265, 115th Congress), which Ranking Member Baldwin plans to reintroduce soon, would support efforts to incorporate resiliency into community planning and reduce federal spending on disaster recovery and restoration in the long-term.

Mr. Eric Genrich (Mayor of Green Bay, Wisconsin) spoke about the actions Green Bay, Wisconsin, has completed to develop their waterways in environmentally and economically beneficial ways. The city has worked to restore a swimming beach and hopes to construct a commercial port at the mouth of the bay. Mr. Mike Friis (Executive Committee Member, National Working Waterfront Network) emphasized that despite numerous efforts to increase access to waterfronts by areas like Green Bay, these communities still face significant environmental challenges, such as high-water levels, bluff erosion, and increased frequency and severity of coastal storms and flash flood events.


“Waterfronts hold the potential for new economic opportunities, improved quality of life, and local revitalization.”— Ranking Member Tammy Baldwin (WI)

“In Mississippi, we are building a new blue economy to diversify our traditional economy founded on shipbuilding, fishing, and tourism. This economy will build on new emerging technology fields around unmanned maritime systems. It creates opportunities for high-paying science, technology, engineering, and math, such as robotics engineering and machine-learning computer skills. It provides new opportunities for Mississippi’s best and brightest students to stay on the coast. In short, it builds resilience.”— Dr. Monty Graham (Associate Vice President for Research, Coastal Operations, University of Southern Mississippi)

Next Steps

Ranking Member Baldwin announced she is planning to reintroduce the Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act of 2018 (S. 3265, 115th Congress) later this Congress. Senator Baldwin previously introduced this bill in the 115th Congress, where it passed through committee by voice vote, although it did not receive a Senate floor vote. This legislation would support local efforts to revive waterfronts along the Great Lakes, oceans, rivers and lakes to promote economic, ecosystem and community resiliency.

In the House, the Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act (H.R. 3596) was introduced and had its first hearing in the 116th Congress. The bill awaits subcommittee markup.

Find Out More

Watch the full hearing

Related coverage from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership          

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