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Public grant program is a boon for private marinas

Public money for private marinas and a new online marine radio operation course could both be good for dealers and their customers.

The Boating Infrastructure Grant program under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been around since 1998 and is best known for providing millions of dollars to build transient docks in municipal marinas around the country. Less known is that the grants can also go to private marinas desiring to build new visitor docks and facilities.

Interested dealers with marinas should know the program authorizes grants to states to pay up to 75 percent of the cost to construct, renovate or maintain tie-up facilities for transient non-trailerable recreational boats. You, or a non-federal partner, must pay the remaining project cost of at least 25 percent.

There is an annual deadline. This year, applications must be filed by Sept.18. Filings are through a state’s grant administrator who is typically found in the state’s boating, wildlife or natural resources department.

The grant program is an unusual one in that it can make public money available to private marinas. That’s because funds for this competitive program come from excise taxes on boat gasoline and fishing tackle that boaters and anglers pay into the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund.

The goal of the Boating Infrastructure Grant program 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. More specifically, privately-owned marinas can install conveniences including restrooms (even floating ones), fuel docks, electricity, water and sewage utilities, recycling and pumpout stations and undertake small dredging projects (up to $200,000) using grant dollars. Moreover, two tiers of funding, both competitive and non-competitive, are available.

There’s an important criteria to note: grant projects must be for boats 26 feet up and larger staying overnight from one to up to 15 days, and to navigate at a minimum depth of six feet.

BoatUS was instrumental in creating the grant program that today is as much an economic development tool for a community attracting cruising boats and the related boater spending. So far, more than $177 million in grants have been awarded. Moreover, BoatUS has also put together a great list of projects that received grants in the past at BoatUS.com/gov/BIG.asp. There’s also a helpful link to state boating grant administrator contacts.

And speaking of BoatUS, once again it has teamed up with the United States Power Squadrons to develop an online “All About Marine Radios.”

The course shows how to use standard VHF radios as well as newer Digital Selective Calling VHF radios and is excellent for the novice and experienced boater. That’s because it’s believed the most important piece of safety gear aboard a boat is the least understood.

BoatUS Foundation director of education Amanda Suttles Pérez is right when she describes the importance this way: “From calling a mayday to requesting a marina slip, it’s the boater’s VHF radio that is the most reliable way to communicate, and it is the only piece of equipment that can get those closest to a boat in distress to respond quickly.”

Dealers can easily refer customers, especially new boaters, to this and other excellent online courses (that I’ve highlighted in this blog in the past) created by BoatUS and the USPS. There is a charge of $24.95, discounted to $19.96 for members of USPS, Canadian Power Squadrons, US Coast Guard Auxiliary, Great Lakes Cruising Club and BoatUS. Go to: BoatUS.org/courses

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