Coastal Access and Working Waterfronts

Grants, Technical Assistance and Other Resources

Maine's Coastal Policies

Access to the shore is vital to all of Maine's coastal communities, whether for commercial fishing, water-dependent businesses or for tourism and recreation.

The Maine Coastal Program works with state agencies, municipalities and other partners to:

  • Promote the maintenance, development and revitalization of the state's ports and harbors for fishing transportation and recreation.
  • Support shoreline management that gives preference to water-dependent uses over other uses; promotes public access to the shoreline; and considers the cumulative effects of development on coastal resources.

Working waterfront access is a critical priority for the Maine Coastal Program, other Maine state agencies and a variety of other organizations throughout the state. Of Maine's vast shoreline, only 175 miles are sufficiently deep and sheltered to support water-dependent businesses. More than half of this area is occupied by residential, commercial and industrial structures that may benefit from a waterfront location but do not depend on it. Working waterfronts now comprise only 25 miles of Maine's coast. These areas are becoming harder for landowners to retain given development pressure and rising property taxes. These trends, coupled with aging infrastructure and declines in fishing and other marine industries makes it harder for water-dependent businesses to survive.

Below is a quick reference to grant programs and other resources that can assist coastal communities with coastal access and working waterfront conservation.

Community Planning

  • Municipal Comprehensive Planning - A comprehensive plan helps communities consider their future and determine how and where they want to grow. Comprehensive plans can establish goals and strategies for public access and conservation of working waterfronts. Coastal communities submitting their plans for review by the Municipal Planning Assistance Program staff at the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry need to address the state's coastal policies. Information about comprehensive planning is available at from DACF's planning team
  • Waterfront Planning - many coastal towns develop a more specific plan and set of strategies for their harbor and waterfront areas. Strategies might include formation of a standing harbor committee, development of waterfront zoning, and identification of funding mechanisms and programs. The Coastal Program's publication The Right Tack: Charting Your Harbor's Future is a good, but dated resource. An update of the publication is planned for release in 2013.
  • The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) administers Maine's Shoreland Zoning Law which requires that municipalities protect shoreland areas by adopting shoreland zoning maps and ordinances. Under its shoreland zoning ordinance, a municipality can create one or more "Commercial Fisheries/Maritime Activities Districts" to manage uses in working waterfronts.

Grant Programs for Coastal Land Conservation and Shoreline Access

  • Land for Maine's Future Program - Land conservation program offering funds to land acquisition for qualified projects. In particular, LMF's Public Access to Maine Waters Fund supports acquisition of land parcels and right-of-ways that create or enhance public access to coastal waters (and lakes, ponds, and rivers.)
  • Maine Coastal Program Right-of-Way Discovery Program - Provides small grants to municipalities to research forgotten or overlooked right-of-ways to the shore. Funds help towns to re-establish or confirm use of these areas by the public.
  • Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program - Federal funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides state and local governments with funds to purchase significant coastal or estuarine lands or to acquire conservation easements. The program is administered in Maine by the Coastal Program.
  • Maine Boating Facilities Grant Program and the Land and Water Conservation Fund - (insert links to both): Both programs are administered by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. The Boating Facilities grants help towns and other entities develop and maintain public boating facilities on coastal and inland waters. The Land and Water Conservation Fund assists federal, state and local governments in the acquisition and development of public outdoor recreational facilities.

Other Resources for Coastal Land Conservation and Shoreline Access

  • Accessing the Maine Coast: This website contains information to help waterfront users, coastal communities, and land owners address issues related to coastal access.
  • Maine Coast Protection Initiative: The MCPI works to increase the pace and quality of land protection by enhancing the capacity of Maine’s conservation organizations.

Grant Programs for Conservation and Enhancement of Commercial Access to the Shore (Working Waterfronts)

  • Working Waterfront Access Protection Program - The Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) program provides funds to help purchase, preserve and protect key properties on the coast that provide access to and support commercial fisheries activities.
  • Shore and Harbor Planning Grants Program - The Maine Coastal Program provides grants to promote sound waterfront planning, harbor management, and balanced development of shore and harbor areas to improve marine infrastructure and assure access to the shore
  • MDOT/Small Harbor Improvement Program - The Maine Department of Transportation program provides funds for harbor infrastructure
  • Community Development Block Grant Program - Each year, the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development receives federal funds to assist low-income communities through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program. This program can support working waterfronts through its Public Facilities Grants and its Economic Development Infrastructure Grants.

  • Maine Department of Environmental Protection Pumpout Grant Program - The Maine Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) Pumpout Grant Program (PGP) offers funds to help install pumpout stations, run mobile pumpout vessels, and educate boaters about appropriate sewage discharge.
  • Maine Department of Environmental Protection Voluntary Response Action Program (VRAP and Brownfields) - The Voluntary Response Action Program (VRAP/Brownfields) promotes investigation, remediation and redevelopment of contaminated properties by offering program applicants liability assurances/protections from State enforcement actions. This program, administered through the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, can be used in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields funding program to help clarify liability and begin remediation at contaminated sites.
  • Coastal Enterprises Inc. Working Waterfront Loan Fund - Coastal Enterprises, Inc., a nonprofit economic development organization, manages a Working Waterfront Loan Fund that provides low-cost financing for dredging, pier maintenance, repairs and environmental upgrades. The fund offers loans to private pier and wharf operations that provide marine services and to commercial fishing, aquaculture, boat repair and boatbuilding operations. Some loans are made for acquiring real estate or access rights.
  • Finance Authority of Maine - FAME is an independent state agency that offers innovative financial solutions to help Maine citizens pursue business and educational opportunities. Contact FAME at or by calling 1-800-228-3734 or 207-623-3263.
  • Maine Department of Economic and Community Development - Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is a local economic development tool that allows a municipality to use all (or a portion of) new property taxes (the "increment") from an investment project to assist in project financing within a designated district (such as a working waterfront zone). This financing may involve directly reimbursing the investing business or retiring project-related bonds issued by the municipality. More information on TIFs in Maine is available from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

Other Resources for Conservation of Commercial Access to the Shore (Working Waterfronts)