WRNI political analyst Scott MacKay has a great On Politics Blog post about the need to protect Rhode Island’s working waterfronts as a state-wide resource:

Marine businesses that use the bay to repair boats, ship heating oil or unload fish are concerned about being gentrified out of their perches on the bay front by those who favor residential or recreational uses.

Legislation is pending before the state Senate that is designed to protect the state’s working waterfront, particularly the Port of Providence. At a hearing last week at the State House, boat repair, shipping and commercial fishing industry representatives told senators they need protection from the pressure for condominium and commercial development along the coast.

David Cohen of Pro Met Marine, a boat year owner was emphatic, telling senators that there is no way that the condominium crowd can co-exist peacefully with marine industries that make noise 24 hours a day.

What inevitably happens, Cohen says, is that folks in the condominiums get tired of the noise from the boat yards. The condo folks complain to politicians. And they get their way because they organize and vote.

Marine businesses must be on the water. The federal government paid $65 million to dredge the Providence channel to a depth of 40 feet to accommodate shipping. Hotels, condos and restaurants don’t have to be directly on the water.

The city of Providence is against the measure to protect marine businesses because officials fear they will lose control of their waterfront zoning to the state. A good point, but the city’s waterfront is a state resource, much like Green Airport. Do we really want the Warwick City Council to control the airport. Don’t hold your breath waiting for runway improvements.

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