Maryland's Working Waterfronts Program

Maryland’s 16 coastal counties and Baltimore City contain 70% of Maryland’s population and over 3,000 linear miles of shoreline. As a result, Maryland is particularly reliant on healthy coastal waters and resources and a wide range of marine uses – marine transportation, tourism and recreation, fishing and shellfish industries, marine construction, ship and boat-building – to drive the State’s economy. However, these uses sometimes conflict with each other, and economic, ecological, demographic, and development pressures threaten the long-term viability of water dependent jobs and the heritage of working waterfront communities.

In 2007, under Senate Bill 414, the Maryland General Assembly established the Maryland Working Waterfront Commission comprised of State agency representatives, elected officials, resource-based industry development entities and local watermen. The Commission was tasked to evaluate and make recommendations about how the State could preserve the commercial fishing industry’s access to public trust waters. The pdf icon2008 Maryland Working Waterfront Commission report noted that like most working waterfronts around the United States, Maryland is seeing a decline in working waterfronts likely due to increased coastal population growth, declining profitability of the commercial fishing industry, rising real estate values and other economic drivers, and limited information exchange among stakeholders. The Commission sunsetted in 2008.

Working Waterfronts Program

DNR’s Chesapeake and Coastal Service (CCS) recognizes that the history, culture, and community identity of our coastal communities is inextricably linked to the existence of the working waterfront. In order to assist with the preservation of existing and historic working waterfronts in Maryland, CCS is building from the work of the Maryland Working Waterfront Commission and engaging partners throughout the state.

CCS has worked with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science to develop a Working Waterfronts Inventory for the state. This inventory captures the current state of Maryland’s working waterfront infrastructure and resources, and is made available to the public on the Maryland Coastal Atlas. CCS has also worked with the Environmental Finance Center to assess the ways in which a state program can most effectively assist local communities.

The Chesapeake and Coastal Service launched its Working Waterfronts Program on June 18th with a Working Waterfronts Exchange held in Cambridge, MD. Over 100 participants descended on Governor’s Hall at Sailwinds Park to discuss challenges and opportunities for working waterfront communities across Maryland and the East coast.

The University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center shared a 6-step framework for establishing sustainable working waterfronts, which was developed over a 6-month collaboration with a Cambridge Stakeholder Advisory Committee. The Exchange also included sessions on cultural and heritage tourism, state and local planning, community visioning, and Maryland’s seafood industry, as well as a networking Expo for water-dependent businesses and stakeholders.

How Your Community Can Support Working Waterfronts

  • Property Tax Credits - The Maryland General Assembly passed legislation1 in 2008 allowing local jurisdictions to provide a special use tax assessment for waterfront property to those commercial marinas that offer at least 20% of their slips to commercial waterman.

  • County Comprehensive Planning – Planning Commissions of code home rule and commissioner counties that are located on the tidal waters of the State must include designation of areas on the tidal water for loading, unloading, and processing finfish and shellfish as well as docking and mooring for commercial fishing boats and vessels. The designated areas are meant to facilitate commercial harvesting and assure reasonable access to the waterways of the State by commercial watermen.2

  • Local Zoning - Many local jurisdictions such as Annapolis and Ocean City have instituted special zoning for maritime and waterfront areas.


What is a Working Waterfront?

The National Working Waterfront Network states: "Working Waterfronts are the waterfront lands, waterfront infrastruc​ture, and waterways that are used for a water-dependent activity, such as ports, small recreational boat harbors, fishing docks, and hundreds of other places across the country where people use and access the water."

In Maryland, each waterfront community is unique, and each will define its working waterfront differently. This definition may stem from a community’s history, culture, resources, and commercial and recreational needs. ​


Maryland Host Working Waterfronts Exchange 

Maryland Hosts Working Waterfronts Exchange

Boaters, watermen, aquaculturists, and others met to discuss Working Waterfronts​​​

Maryland’s Working Waterfronts Program 

Building a Framework for Sustainable Working Waterfronts: Cambridge, Maryland

Click pdf pdfhere to download the final EFC report. ​​​

Cover of Maryland Working Waterfront Commission Final Report 

pdf Working Waterfronts Commission Report

The 2007 Commission was tasked to make recommendations about how the State could preserve the commercial fishing industry’s access to public trust waters.

Financial and Technical Support for Working Waterfront Communities

Financial and technical resources for communities to support the preservation and enhancement of their Working Waterfronts.

Working Waterfront Inventory 

Working Waterfront Inventory

Results of an inventory of Working Waterfront infrastructure conducted throughout the state available on the Maryland Coastal Atlas.​​​