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Boating Infrastructure Grants offer funding for docks and visiting boater amenities

by BoatUS 26 Oct 08:37 PDT

Does your town or region make it easy for boaters to visit and spend locally? Having safe, protected dockage and offering amenities to these tourists by water can bring boaters in, but how do you pay for it? The Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG) program, first championed by Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS), has proven effective in attracting boaters and their spending dollars by providing safe transient dockage as well as a range of important boater amenities.

Since its inception in 1998, BIG has provided $283 million for safe harbor facilities including infrastructure such as piers, breakwaters, floating docks, bulkheads, mooring buoys, day docks, dinghy docks, slips, bathrooms, showers, laundries, recycling stations, fuel docks, utilities, navigation aids, limited dredging and other services. A key BIG requirement is that grant funds must be designed for use by for visiting transient boats greater than 26 feet in length for stays of up to 15 days.

Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service but administered locally through state boating agencies, BIG funding comes from taxes that boaters and anglers pay on motorboat fuel, fishing tackle and equipment, imported boats, and small engines. BIG project costs are shared through matching funds, typically provided by a state, county or town. The application deadline for public municipalities, marinas or boat clubs varies in each state, as do program requirements. To get started, the State's Organization for Boating Access offers BIG Applicant's Guide as well as a list of state boating agency contacts. State application deadlines are typically each Fall.

Here's a look at the BIG program by the numbers:

>> $20 million: The amount of BIG funds available to local municipalities and marinas in the 2024 grant cycle for the construction, renovation and maintenance of safe harborage for transient vessels.

>> 2: The number or type of BIG funding "tiers" accepting applications. Tier 1 provides funds for smaller projects up to $200,000 and is noncompetitive. Tier 2 provides a maximum of $1.5 million per application and is competitive. Both tiers require a minimum additional 25% matching share funds.

>> 6,800+: The number of transient berths across the U.S. that the BIG program has created since its inception. Each one is an economic engine for the local community that benefits traveling boaters.

>> 381: The number of transient boat slips and berths that were funded at the previous 2022/23 Tier 2 level, along with thousands of feet of side-tie transient docking space. Tier 1 2022/23 grants provided nearly $17 million in funding for smaller projects in 10 states.

>> 26: The minimum length in feet of a recreational boat that the BIG program is designed to attract. This is about the size of a vessel with three key onboard amenities critical for overnight stays or cruises: 1. a cooking facility, 2. a sleeping facility, and 3. bathroom or "head."

>> 20: The number of years a municipality must commit to keeping a BIG project available and open to the boating public. Access to facilities must be maintained at all times during the boating season, and BIG obligations continue with any transfer or sale of a boating facility.

>> 22: The number of states and U.S. territories that shared $19.8 million in total BIG funding in the 2023 grant cycle: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.

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