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November 2013 Featured Article

 

Keeping an Eye on New Jersey Waterfronts and Ports:
Potential Funding Opportunities for Local Marine Areas

Triad Associates

The Federal government is paying increased attention to U.S. ports and waterfront areas in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  This is occurring in two ways: the first deals with securing beachfront areas from future storms; the second stresses the importance of marine areas as increasingly integral contributors to the economic development and sustainability of their surrounding communities. Responding to the latter, The Waterfront of Tomorrow Act was announced on July 30 by Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (D-NY).

The Waterfront of Tomorrow Act of 2013 (H.R. 2875) is a new bill that will provide resources to municipalities for improving the resilience of their ports and waterfronts from inclement weather.  Additionally it will provide resources to become more economically viable, support more types of uses and activities and be more environmentally sustainable.  Although this bill is presently targeting New York City’s waterfronts and ports, it’s reframing of waterfronts as tomorrow’s main streets can make other marine areas in the U.S. eligible for federal grant funding for economic growth.  If passed, this bill would award funding through the Secretary of Commerce to states and local governments interested in conducting studies to improve flood protection and climate resilience and projects designed to improve the condition of ports and waterfronts.

H.R. 2875 first calls for the Secretary of the Army to conduct a study of measures to improve flood protection and climate resilience of New York City using both traditional engineering and green infrastructure technologies. The Secretary would be required to share these findings with Congress and report on the results of the study no later than 18 months after the Act’s date of enactment.

Second, this bill would incorporate ports and waterfronts into the National Freight Policy included in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). These provisions focus on improving the movement of cargo through the United States.

Third, this bill would establish a state and local grant program within the U.S. Economic Development Administration to promote environmentally sustainable waterfront areas.  Eligible projects would receive up to $10,000,000 if they either demonstrate the establishment of an environmentally sustainable waterfront area or generate economic growth and job creation at the subject marine area.

Finally, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Maritime Administration would jointly establish a “Green Port” designation program to meet specific environmental criteria that can allow for grant funding to encourage the use of green technologies.  Referred to as “Next Generation Ports”, examples include oyster reef restoration, tidal wetland restoration and other natural designs that reduce storm surge impacts. 

In addition to more sustainable approaches, the bill would also encourage greater integration of waterfront and port activities among surrounding communities, including the growth of green spaces and trails.  Encouraging visitors and tourists to active commercial, industrial and freight waterfronts and ports will allow municipalities to capture more dollars than current single-use marine districts.

As a coastal state, New Jersey obviously has both large and small communities where waterfronts currently play an important role in local development, both from an economic and recreational perspective.  Waterfronts provide ports and marinas for fishing fleets, private crafts and food processors.  They offer opportunities for boating, recreational fishing and other tourism related activities. 

As H.R. 2875 moves through the legislature, waterfront communities would be well-served to follow the potential funding that could emanate from the legislation and find ways to leverage planning and other dollars to take maximum advantage of the key marine and related facilities that serve their communities.

 

Published November 26, 2013

 

 


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