The Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG) program, which funnels federal fuel taxes paid by recreational boaters back to the states to attract visiting boaters with amenities such as secure overnight dockage, has $24.7 million in funds available to local governments, port agencies, private marinas and boat clubs. The associated visiting boater spending that BIG projects draw can increase economic development and bring additional revenue to local restaurants, shops, boating, service and tourism-related businesses.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service manages the program that is administered through state boating, parks and conservation agencies. The competitive matching grant program requires a minimum of 25 percent of funds from state, local and private sources. Waterfront communities can use BIG funds to welcome passing boaters for the day, a weekend or up to 10 days in port. The key is the facilities must target transient recreational vessels 26 feet in length and larger.
The goal is to give cruising boaters safe harbor and easy access to shoreside amenities via boat slips, mooring fields and dinghy docks dedicated to transient boats. In addition to providing a place to safely “park” a visiting boat, local government, public or private marinas and boat clubs, ports, or other recreation or conservation agencies can use BIG dollars to install conveniences such as restrooms, bathing facilities, fuel docks, electricity, water and sewage utilities, laundries, recycling and pump out stations as well as some limited funds for dredging.