The Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG) program, which funnels federal fuel taxes paid by recreational boaters back to the states to draw visiting boaters with amenities such as secure overnight dockage, has a $6 million dollar surplus this year.
Corpus Christi, Texas, used two BIG grants as seed money to turn its tired municipal marina into a 600-slip, world-class facility for cruisers and local boaters alike. Privately owned marinas can also apply for BIG funding.
First championed through Congress by Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) in 1998, the US Fish and Wildlife Service-managed program has dedicated over $170 million to date on the specific task of helping waterfront communities attract cruising boats. Now, with a significant surplus in the bank, the agency is issuing a second call for applications for fiscal year 2013, found at BoatUS.com/gov/BIG.asp.
'BoatUS initiated this program to benefit cruising boaters,' said BoatUS Assistant Vice President of Government Affairs Ryck Lydecker, who has been involved with and provided guidance to the program since its inception. 'The BIG program can increase local economic development with boater spending in restaurants, shops, service industries and tourism-related businesses,' added Lydecker. 'And it is often the seed money that jumpstarts larger projects that benefit local boaters as well.'
A competitive matching grant program, waterfront communities can use BIG funds to welcome passing boaters, for the day, a weekend or up to 10 days in port. The goal is to give cruising boaters convenient access to shore-side amenities via slips dedicated to transient boats as well as mooring fields and dinghy docks. Marinas can also install conveniences and services like restrooms, fuel docks, electricity, water and sewage utilities, as well as recycling and pump-out stations using BIG dollars.
'The program's scope is national, but we are encouraging marinas and communities affected by Hurricane Sandy that lost valuable transient dockage or other infrastructure to apply,' added Lydecker.
Projects must be located on water bodies deep enough for boats 26-feet and over to navigate at a minimum depth of six feet. A project may include costs for one-time dredging to provide access between open water and the tie-up facility. Matching funds - a 25% minimum is required - may not come from other federal sources, but state, local and private funds can be used to match. Marinas operated as private businesses are eligible to apply. BoatU.S. advises that potential applicants should contact the agency in their state that administers BIG funds. A link to the directory is available at: BoatUS.com/gov/BIG.asp.