Historically, coastal and inland waterways were the first highways along our shores and into the interior of the continent. Americans used boats almost exclusively for transportation of people and goods. Today more than 12 million recreational boats are used to cruise and fish. Recreational boating is a significant economic activity in many areas of the country and in many respects exceeds that of waterborne commerce.
The National Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG) program was authorized by the Sport Fishing and Boating Safety Act of 1998. This act delegated the United States Fish and Wildlife Service with the responsibility of administering funds to States to install or upgrade tie-up facilities for transient recreational boats 26 feet or more in length. Typically, boats of this size are more likely to have holding tanks, and consequently require mooring facilities in order to access pump-out and sanitary services.
In response to an increasing demand for accommodations, congress ordered a national survey of the 12,000 marinas in the United States, including the nearly 450 that are located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The survey discovered that the existing tie-up facilities were insufficient for the volume of large transient boats by not providing reasonable and convenient access for our navigable waters.
One of the most significant problems facing recreational boaters in many parts of the country is the limited number of safe harbors. These essential facilities enable vessels to tie-up, moor, or anchor, even if temporarily, for protective measures, such as in during an impending or active storm.
In addition to the problems caused by the limited number of harbors, the survey discovered that many of the existing facilities were of minimal construct, and had non-existent or limited features, often failing to provide needed services such as fuel, utilities, and restrooms.
By ensuring that boaters have the combination of both vessel pump-out services and onshore sanitary facilities the BIG program protects the integrity of our waterways by preventing the discharge of sewage into our waters.
BIG projects in Virginia have involved the construction or renovation of tie-ups, utilities, fuel stations, restrooms and additional sanitary amenities such as laundry and showers. Wherever possible, BIG projects seek to bring marinas into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Boating Infrastructure Grant funding is available on a two-tier basis. All states and territories that submit a proposal may be eligible to receive up to $200,000 through tier I funding. Tier II funding is very competitive and is reserved for larger, more expensive projects. VDH assists boating facilities throughout Virginia in the preparation of BIG proposals. Successful BIG proposals are managed and monitored by the VDH Marina Program staff. VDH was designated by the United States Department of Interior as the lead state agency to implement the grant program. No facility may receive BIG funds that are not currently in compliance with VDH Marina Program regulations.
If you would like to apply for a Boating Infrastructure Grant, please consult the links below for information and application materials. Grant applications are now being accepted for FY2023. The application deadline is July 11th, 2022. Contact Preston Smith at (804) 864-7468 for assistance with the application process.