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Waterfront Towns Have Federal Grants Money Available to Help Pay for Visiting Boater Facilities
Corpus Christi, Texas, used BIG funding as seed money to turn its tired municipal marina into a world-class facility for cruising boaters.

Visiting boaters, whether staying over for just one night or a couple weeks, offers economic benefits and adds to the vitality of waterfront communities, marinas and boat clubs. How do towns and marinas attract them? By having overnight “transient” dockage that is protected, safe, and with needed amenities such as electricity and water service connections. A federal Boating Infrastructure Grant (B.I.G.) program from the US Fish and Wildlife Service can help communities, via their state boating agency, pay for up to 75% of these improvements, and Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) is championing the program to get the word out. Funded by boaters, about $13 million is available this year.

The B.I.G. program gives cruising boaters convenient access to shore-side amenities via slips dedicated to transient boats as well as mooring fields and dinghy docks. Primarily designed for public municipal marinas, privately owned marinas as well as boat clubs may also be able apply, depending on the state. These funds go to construct, renovate or maintain transient boater facilities, including docks, moorings, restrooms (including floating ones), fuel docks, electricity, water and sewage utilities, recycling and pumpout stations, and potentially small dredging projects.

Two tiers of funding are available. Tier I grants allow states up to $200,000 to administer the program. These smaller, non competitive grants can also be used by states for “mini grants” to help marinas do small maintenance projects such as minor repairs to docks, better signage for boaters or replacement of worn equipment such as dock electricity power pedestals.

“Tier I grants give states flexibility to accomplish their goals and are non-competitive,” said US Fish & Wildlife B.I.G. Grant Lead Brad Gunn. “They may also help with some initial costs when applying for larger, Tier II projects, such as getting the permitting going – a must for a larger grant.”

Larger Tier II grants are competitive and offer up to $1.5 million for transient boater infrastructure improvements. Both Tier I and II projects must be located on water bodies deep enough for boats 26-feet in length staying overnight from one to up to 15 days, and to navigate at a minimum depth of six feet. 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.

BoatUS was instrumental in creating the program in 1998 that is viewed today by local municipalities as an economic development tool to attract cruising boats and boater spending. To date, over $175 million in grants have been awarded. Not a government handout, funding for the competitive B.I.G. program comes from excise taxes on boat gasoline and fishing tackle that boaters and anglers pay into the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund.

The annual deadline for the federal grant program is in September every year. Your state boating agency may have an earlier deadline for receiving applications from local partners. Awards are announced every April. However, not all states participate and BoatUS suggests that if a waterfront community, boat club or marina is interested, start by taking a look at what’s possible by seeing a list of prior projects that received B.I.G. grant funding at There’s also a helpful link to state B.I.G. administrator contacts.



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