Money is available for local governments, port agencies, private marinas and boat clubs

The US government is putting up some US$24.7m in Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG) money for local governments, port agencies, private marinas and boat clubs to make improvements that will help stimulate local economies in part by attracting visiting boaters.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service manages BIG, which returns federal fuel taxes paid by recreational boaters back to the states to fund improvement projects like secure overnight dockage, moorings, fuel docks, navigation aids, restrooms, utilities and breakwaters along with some limited funds for dredging.

The competitive matching grant program requires a minimum of 25% 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 26ft in length and larger.

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.

Since inception, more than $215m has been provided for BIG projects, adding more than 5,400 transient berths across the US.

Projects funded most recently include replacement of a 40-year-old fuel float with a modern concrete float at a marina in Washington State; 10 docks ranging from 66ft-85ft at a New Jersey port along with a two-storey transient marina service building with bath, shower and laundry; protected state-operated safe harbor with 36 transient slips and community building on the Texas Gulf Coast; and a 334ft floating wave-attenuating dock at a private marina in Maine.