Grants could protect fishing

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PORTLAND (AP) – Rep. Tom Allen and Sen. Susan Collins on Monday promoted legislation to provide federal matching grants to help preserve access to coastal waters for commercial fishermen.

Democrat Allen, who is seeking to unseat the Republican senator in 2008, unveiled his proposal at a news conference overlooking the waterfront at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland.

Within hours, Collins’ office weighed in, saying the senator had introduced a similar proposal in March for working waterfront grants.

Allen and Collins said their grant proposals, which vary in some details, would enable coastal states to stem the loss of waterfront property needed to support commercial fishing.

Allen’s would authorize $75 million in grants per year to Collins’ $50 million and would go beyond commercial fishing to include other water-dependent coastal industries, such as boat building.

“Working waterfronts from Eliot to Lubec are critical to Maine’s economy, providing more than $750 million in state revenue each year and supporting 35,000 jobs,” Allen said.

Under the plans, working waterfront grants would require at least a 25 percent state match and could be used to acquire either title or easements for waterfront property.

Eligible projects would be required to provide for expansion or improvement of public access, except in industrial access points such as commercial fishing piers where such access would pose a safety hazard.

Allen’s legislation comes as an amendment to the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, which is in line for reauthorization this year in Congress.

Collins previously introduced her measure as an amendment to the Magnusson-Stevens Act governing fisheries but reintroduced it as a stand-alone measure.

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