Updated: Aug 27, 2019
Today at the State House in Augusta, the Maine State Legislature voted along party lines against allowing Maine citizens a voice in funding the Land for Maine's Future Program. If passed the bond would have moved forward for a referendum vote from Maine citizens this fall. This issue may be brought up again in the winter, but for many who work on the working waterfront who need funding for updates or preservation to important waterfront access, the loss this program is worrying.
The land for Maine's future program was instrumental in protecting working waterfront property and infrastructure along Maine's Coast from 2000 to 2010. During the LePage Administration, this program was shelved until late last year when $2.1 million was made available for projects. Increase pressure from development, rising oceans and long-term wear and tear, many working waterfront properties could benefit from access to funding and we had hoped that this bond would provide increased opportunity for fishing communities throughout Maine.
You can read more about the Lands for Maine's Future Program here.
Below is MCFA's comment letter on the bond proposal.
I write today on behalf of our board of directors and fishing members in support of the Land for Maine’s Future bond which has played crucial role in protecting at- risk waterfront from development and decay. The Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association (MCFA) is an industry-based organization that identifies and fosters ways to restore the fisheries of the Gulf of Maine and sustain Maine’s iconic fishing communities for future generations. Established and run by Maine community-based fishermen, MCFA works to enhance the ecological and financial sustainability of the fishery through balancing the needs of the current generation of fishermen with the long-term environmental restoration of the Gulf of Maine. With members living in towns from Cutler to Kittery, MCFA fishermen represent diverse fishing practices who have come together to advocate for fishermen developed solutions to complex ecosystem, community, and management problems. MCFA is has been working throughout the state to raise awareness of the threat to working waterfront access and has strived to amplify fishermen’s voices in the decisions impacting this crucial infrastructure.
We intuitively know that it is important to protect Maine’s working waterfront. Maine’s wharves, docks and piers provide local fishermen with the necessities they need during their day-to-day business operations and offer comfort and relief on a return home. There are over 30,000 jobs directly related to the working waterfront in Maine, with the fishing industry contributing more than $800 million annually to the state's economy. With the fishing industry being such an important economic driver along the coast, it’s easy to forget that much of what is harvested from the Gulf of Maine is also food and that our docks and wharfs are a part of the local food system just as much as a farmland or pasture.
Unfortunately, funding for protection of waterfront access is far less abundant than opportunities for conservation and preservation of farmland. That is why supporting the Land for Maine’s Future bond is so important for Maine’s fishermen. It is one of the very few opportunities, along with the Working Waterfront Access Pilot Program (WWAPP), that currently provides funding to businesses, communities, co-ops, or non-profits that are in desperate need of updates or repair. Money for infrastructure and waterfront preservation is imperative if we want to preserve remaining access for one of the most iconic industries in our state.
When last assessed in 2010, working waterfronts covered a mere 20 miles along Maine's 5,300- miles of coastline; yet they supply the lifeblood of many coastal communities (especially in eastern Maine) enriching the regional economy and sustaining cherished cultural traditions. The Gulf of Maine represents fantastic economic opportunity for our state, but we need safe and secure access points to the marine resources for Maine’s fishermen of today, tomorrow, and forever
The Land for Maine’s Future Program gives fishermen and waterfront businesses access to resources that are otherwise impossible to find. Protecting the working waterfront preserves a coastal community’s integrity, heritage and culture. Tourists, visitors, and summer residents flock to Maine to visit the coast, watch the fishing boats, and eat local seafood. This bond is an investment in our future and is an investment that is sure to pay off for this and future generations of fishermen.
Once the working waterfront is gone, it is difficult if not impossible to get it back. Let’s not make the mistake that so many others have made and lose sight of the value that preservation, maintenance and investment in the working waterfront has for Maine’s future. Thank you for supporting Maine’s commercial fishermen by supporting the Land for Maine’s Future bond proposal.
Sincerely, Ben Martens Executive Director