Most American cities are located on a body of waterfront.
In fact, one is hard pressed to find a major American city that is not located
along a significant body of water; according to the US Census, only six of
the largest 75 cities in the United States are so located (Breen and Rigby
1994, 11).[i] It
is not hard to determine why many cities developed along waterfronts and
bodies of water. Waterfronts provide access to trade, marine resources,
and, often, waterways into the interior country, thus a route for trading
goods and services with the hinterland. Today, waterfronts remain a central
part of city's economy.
Maine's economic vitality is particularly reliant upon maintaining
and encouraging working waterfronts. Maine's working waterfronts provide a workplace for fisherman and
the sectors associated with the fishing industry. Additionally, Maine's
tourist economy relies upon the iconic image of fisherman plying the oceans
for the living. Tourist and place marking firms consistently uses this
image in literature. While working waterfronts play a large role in the
state's economy, a very small portion of the coast is used are working
waterfronts. In fact, research has shown that working waterfronts comprise
less than 1% of the state's coastline (Colgan 2004, 1). Unfortunately,
throughout coastal Maine,
these precious few working waterfronts are under constant threat.
This handbook entry focuses on the economic impact
of Maine's working waterfronts. [ii] The
first section attempts to provide a precise definition for a working waterfront.
The following section examines economic data about working waterfront's contribution
to Maine's economy. The final sections
address the threats that residential development poses and how communities
can develop a policy response that could conserve their working waterfronts.
What is a "working" waterfront?
Maine's coast stretches the
length of the state for close to 3,500 miles, reaching from Kittery
at the southern end to Eastport. Working waterfronts constitute only 25
of those 3,500 miles, less than 1% of the total length (Maine State Planning
Office 2000). But what, exactly, is a working waterfront? A precise definition
has not been widely accepted by planners, economists or politicians. Clogan
(2004) provides a practical definition: Working waterfronts are those portions
of the shore used to support commercial activities such as fishing, marinas,
boat building and repair. This definition focuses on the waterfront itself,
and as a result is too geographically limited. Jim Connor, planner for the
Maine State Planning Office's Coastal Program, provides a more useful and
complete explanation of a working waterfront. He explains that a working
waterfront consists of the sites or facilities providing the physical access
to the sea·then the infrastructure of facilities and services needed to support
commercial uses·and finally other facilities and services that are needed,
but do not need to occur at the waters edge (quoted in Snyder 2003).
Connor's definition is useful for a number of reasons.
First, he identifies that working waterfronts include both the areas directly
on the water, but also the sectors removed from the shoreline. This is a
very important consideration, and one not typically made and we see in the
Colgan (2004) definition. Without industrial sectors not directly tied to
the waterfront, such as boat builders, repair facilities, ice makers needed
for food storage, and many others, Maine's maritime industries would flounder. Furthermore,
Connor's distinction accurately reflects a working waterfront's economic
impact by including these industries. In turn this helps explains maritime
industries high multiplier as we will see later in the handbook.
The Economic Impacts of Maine's Working Waterfronts
Working waterfronts support a dynamic maritime
industry that contributes a significant amount to Maine's
economy. In 2002, 10,300 commercial fishermen were directly employed on fishing
vessels, but an additional 26,000 jobs were created in industries associated
with commercial fishing (Sheehan and Cowperthwaite 2002, 4). Connor's definition
helps to explain this high multiplier effect. Thus, a full understanding
of a working waterfront's impact must include the sectors associated with
the maritime industries as in Colgan's definition, but also those not along
the shore as Connor rightfully points out.
Cluster analysis provides another attempt to fully
grasp the maritime industries impact on the state's economy. An economic
cluster consists of geographic concentrations of inter-related (sometimes
competing, sometimes collaborating) industries or firms, and their related
supplier network. [iii] According
to the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness Maine's Fishing and Fishing
products cluster is estimated to have the 11th highest total
employment with the nation. This represents 2.5% share of total national
employment within this industry.
In addition to these significant employment figures,
working waterfronts contribute a large amount of money to Maine's
economy. In 2002, working waterfronts supported maritime industries that
directly contributed $860 million dollars to the state's economy (Sheehan
and Cowperthwaite 2002, 4). During the following year, the National Oceans
Economics Project estimated that living resources industries alone contributed
approximately $143 million to the state's gross product (National Oceans
Economics Project). Living resources industries consist just of extractive
fishing industries, such as fin or shell fishing, but non- extractive industries
and industries not along the shore also contribute a large amount to the
state's economy. Sabre Yachts and Hinckley boat builders
are two examples of firms without direct water access, yet fall within Connor's
definition of contributing to the working waterfront economy. Overall the
boat building industry, of which Sabre Yachts and Hinckley boat are a part
of, directly contributes $80.7 million to Maine's gross state product (Colgan 2004, 7). To gauge the full impact,
though, we must also consider the indirect impact that working waterfronts
have on the state's economy.
Like the direct impact, working waterfront's indirect
impact on the state's economy stretches into the hundreds of millions of
dollars. For instance, the boat building industry alone indirectly contributed
$145.4 million (Ibid). The seafood processing and marina sectors are two
more examples. During 2001, the seafood processing and marinas directly contributed
$51 and $27.2 million dollars, respectively, to Maine's
gross state product. Yet, these two industries alone created a $216 million
multiplier effect (Ibid 6). Overall, working waterfront's indirect impact
on the state's economy was $361 million (Colgan 2004)
Employment and multiplier data are useful measures,
but they do not tell the fully illustrate the importance of working waterfronts
and maritime industries. For many of the small towns dotted along Maine's
coast, maritime industries often provide the only source employment (Brewer
and Colbeth 2004, 4). In many of these communities over half of the population
is directly employed in the industries while the remaining segment of the
working population's employment is indirectly related (Ibid). Without working
waterfronts, the maritime industries within those communities would not be
viable, and these communities could not survive. One is not possible without
Threats to Maine's Working Waterfronts
Regardless of their importance to the state's economy
and image or to small town viability, Maine's working waterfronts are threatened. Yet while the threat to
working waterfronts is severe, this is not a new issue. For the past twenty
years, Maine's working waterfronts
have faced numerous challenges. Portland is the most notable example, but, unfortunately, not the
only one (Breen and Rigby 1985, 6- 7). Coastal communities continue to respond
to similar threats with inventive policy responses. This section will outline
the most pressing issues facing Maine's working waterfronts face as well as policy
recommendations that could address those threats.
years, residential development throughout coastal Maine has posed the most serious threat to working waterfronts. Private
housing development has grown very rapidly within coastal Maine,
particularly second home development, and has placed a strain on traditional
water access for Maine's fisherman. In many coastal communities,
fishermen typically access the waterfront via private residences or facilities.
In fact, according to a Coastal Enterprises, Inc. study (2002) 40% of access
is provided by private residences. Recent home development threatens this
pattern. Colgan (2004) found that in 2001 in a sample of 78 coastal towns,
2137 housing permits were issued. Residential development along the waterfront
is not a problem in and of itself; rather increased residential development
creates a number of acute problems.
Associated with new development has been a change
in the constituency that defines coastal Maine. In some coastal communities, particularly
small communities, the number of housing units increased almost 33% between
the 1990 and 2000 census (Sheehan and Cowperthwaite 2004, 30). Increased
growth typically also spurs a change within a community about the image
of the waterfront. No longer is the waterfront a place of business or production,
but instead a serene space primarily used for recreation or relaxation.
Fishermen are quick to note that with the change new coastal property owners don't
understand the historical rights that people have to access the water (Ibid,
2). This quote illustrates how development creates a very pressing problem.
Since private residences provide a large percentage of waterfront access,
when traditional access points are threatened so to is a community's working
waterfront and the maritime industries it supports. New property owners
may not be so amenable to a fisherman using their driveway or piers, or
they may not like a fishing boat idling near their dock before sunup.
The loss of private
access and piers creates a number of other problems. As private waterfront
access declines, coastal towns begin to feel a pressure to build a
town/ public pier. These public wharves are stuck in a precarious position.
Ostensibly created for the entire public's use, public piers must provide
access for both commercial and recreational uses, a very difficult
act indeed. In turn, increased pier use places a strain the limited
available parking near the waterfront. And according to Sheehan and
Cowperthwaite, Unless you can park your truck (near the water), access
means nothing (Sheehan and Cowperthwaite 2004, 2). Each of these problems
begins with the growing demand for coastal residential property and the
subsequent effect on waterfront access. Addressing these problems and preserving
working waterfront's viability does not require drastic measures such as
a freeze on real estate sales, but instead sensible planning and development.
The following section outlines effective measures that communities have
undertaken to preserve their working waterfronts and the maritime industries
that they nurture.
Maine's coastal communities typically employ two
different approaches when attempting to preserve and bolster their working
waterfronts. For many communities, a comprehensive plan is a logical first
place to begin because the plan provides an effective tool when addressing
residential and commercial development. In fact, in Sheehan and Cowperthwaite
(2004) study 84% of the towns sampled had a comprehensive plan. Comprehensive
plans also provide coastal communities an opportunity to codify how they
value their waterfront. If the community values waterfront access and working
waterfronts, the plan will reflect this. A comprehensive plan alone will
not guarantee waterfront access or preserving a portion of the waterfront
for marine uses. Taking this step requires changes to a city or town's zoning
The majority of Maine's communities use zoning regulations, in
various forms, to protect working waterfronts. 72% of towns have some type
of maritime use district for their waterfronts (Sheehan and Cowperthwaite
2004, 9). Exclusive waterfront access or working waterfront regulations are
the most stringent example of maritime use zoning regulation, and not surprisingly,
few towns employee these type of measures; only 24% of the towns within Sheehan
and Cowperthwaite's sample. Importantly, just providing amendable zoning
laws is not enough; 11 of 18 towns within in Maine with an exclusive waterfront zone are still
concerned about losing waterfront access or land (Ibid, 10). Coastal towns
have found that additional steps beyond just creating a comprehensive need
to be taken to preserve working waterfronts.
step and what exactly it entails remain unclear. Many believe that
in addition to developmental pressures an archaic tax code exerts tremendous
pressure on working waterfronts by taxing land used by the maritime
industries at its highest and best use, which typically is as residential
property. In turn this increases the land's value and property taxes
to a point that is not sustainable for many fishermen. Reforming Maine's tax code certainly would provide fisherman and working waterfronts
with needed fiscal relief, but this will not happen in the near future. Instead,
coastal towns must continue to create comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances
that protect working waterfronts to the greatest extent that is currently
possible. As we have seen this would help to protect a dynamic part of Maine's
economy and its image.
Breen, Ann and Rigby, Dick. June 1985. SOS for the Working Waterfront. Planning.
51 (6): 6- 12
Brewer, Jennifer and Colbeth, Nancy. (October 2005). Beals Island and Jonesport, Maine: 2004 Community Panel Report. MIT Seagrant Program. Retrieved
December 2nd, 2005, from http://web.mit.edu/seagrant/aqua/cmss/comm%20mtgs/commmtgsDraftone/JonesportNO.pdf
Colgan, Charles S. (February 2004). The Contribution of Working Waterfronts
to the Maine Economy. Augusta, Maine: Maine's
Working Waterfront Coalition.
National Oceans Economics Program. Market Values Database. Retrieved
November 25, 2005, from http://noep.csumb.edu/market/newMain.asp
Sheehan, Elizabeth and Cowperthwaite, Hugh. (December 2002). Preserving
Commercial Fishing Access: A Study of Working Waterfronts in 25 Maine
Communities. Wiscasset, Maine:
Coastal Enterprises, Inc.
Snyder, Robert. (August 2003). Whose working waterfront is it? The Working
Waterfront. Retrieved December 1st, 2005, from http://www.workingwaterfront.com/article.asp?storyID=20030801