Plan and Legislation Secure Economic Vitality of Working Waterfronts

The Takeaway: Five new bills will help promote and protect economic activity along Virginia’s waterfront communities.

A comprehensive working waterfront master plan, funded by the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, represents a big step taken by this state to ensure the long-term economic and cultural value of the maritime industry. Cities and counties are using the plan to create a conducive climate for long-term stability.

State and private-sector partners have successfully promoted state legislation that shores up waterfront efficiency through strategic dredging, which makes harbors, rivers, and other waterways more navigable.

In spring 2018, Governor Ralph Northam signed five bills into law. Two allow for dredging to be financed—either through the Virginia Resources Authority or tax increments—when the projects promote economic development for waterfront communities. Three others expand waterfront public and recreational access and provide fast-tracked permits for specific dredge disposal projects.

Working waterfronts are essential to Virginia’s ocean economy. NOAA’s Economics: National Ocean Watch estimated that in 2014 Virginia’s working waterfronts accounted for a gross domestic product of $8.5 billion and 122,000 employed. Roughly half of these jobs are in tourism, about 33 percent are in shipbuilding and repair, and 15 percent are in marine construction.

In FY2017 the Port of Virginia—the largest working waterfront in the state—brought in more than $60 billion dollars from the movement of cargo and the jobs responsible for that task. Nationwide, 99 percent of overseas trade moves through U.S. ports, generating $4.6 trillion in economic activity—about 26 percent of the entire U.S. economy.

Working waterfront communities face threats that include displacement of traditional waterfront businesses, problems with water quality and water use, and more frequent and severe floods and storms. Virginia’s master plan addresses these issues and more.

Many government and private-sector participants worked together to create the working waterfront plan. (2018)

More Information: Virginia Working Waterfront Master Plan

Partners: Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission, Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission, NOAA, Shellfish Growers of Virginia, Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Virginia Marine Trades Association, Virginia Sea Grant, Virginia Seafood Council, Virginia Waterman’s Association