National Working Waterfronts & Waterways Symposium

Plenary Sessions

A Historical Geography of Southwest Florida Waterways
by David Fann, Geographer, Florida Sea Grant


Plenary Session #1 (Tuesday 8:00 AM – 9:00 AM)


We are pleased to open the 4th National Working Waterfronts & Waterways Symposium with a keynote address by David Fann, co-author of A Historical Geography of Southwest Florida Waterways, volumes 1 and 2. Perhaps nowhere else in Florida are manmade changes to land and water more visible than along its Southwest Gulf coast between Tampa Bay in the north, Marco Island in the south, and Charlotte Harbor between. The past 125 years witnessed the creation of navigable inland waterways that were designed to improve coastal navigation for safety and commerce—but also sparked explosive shorefront development.

In addition to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway—one segment of the federal waterway from Maine to Texas—thousands of miles of access channels were dredged, bayfront property was filled, and vast finger canal systems and basins were cut to create and extend residential waterfront. The resulting inland waterway system, stretching through a shallow string of bays, lagoons, inlets and estuaries, has helped transform the region’s physical landscape and economy.

Today, Southwest Florida’s “working waterways” are a mecca for recreational activities that include fishing, powerboating, sailing, cruising, canoeing, kayaking, jet- and water-skiing, and nature viewing. The waterfront is dotted with amenities and businesses that cater to these recreational users—and that compete for resources vital to commercial users: boatyards, fishing vessels, and the ships using Florida’s ports.

Unfortunately, the phenomenal urban and waterway development has been accompanied by significant reductions in natural habitats—such as salt marsh, mangrove and seagrass beds—that are important to boaters and fishers but, more importantly, serve as rich nurseries for marine and bird life.

In his presentation, David will highlight some of the significant changes that radically transformed Southwest Florida waterways. He will use historical maps and photographs to illustrate environmental, cultural, and geographic aspects of Southwest Florida's rich working waterway (and waterfront) history. A look to our past can “help us realize how the aspirations of society can impact the future of this natural resource system. Armed with this information, citizens can do a better job of shaping a future that includes the safeguards needed to maintain a healthy environment and growing communities.” (Margaret Davidson, NOAA)


The National Working Waterfront Network: Working for You


Plenary Session #2 (Tuesday 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM)


The National Working Waterfront Network (NWWN) is an organization of individuals from government agencies, waterfront communities, business and industry, universities, and nonprofit groups that share an interest in supporting and strengthening the working waterfronts of the nation’s ocean and Great Lakes coasts and rivers. The Network’s goal is to increase the capacity of coastal communities and stakeholders to make informed decisions, balance diverse uses, ensure access, and plan for the future of working waterfronts and waterways. The NWWN pursues this objective by connecting people, generating knowledge by conducting research, compiling and analyzing data and information, and making it all available through a variety of means including a website, e-newsletter, research reports, presentations to interest groups, and the triennial National Working Waterfronts and Waterways Symposium. In this session, members of the NWWN executive committee and others will provide an overview of the network and report on recent accomplishments and ongoing initiatives including: (1) creation of case studies that showcase and dissect successful working waterfront efforts, (2) completion of a working waterfront oral histories project, (3) development of a research agenda and resource inventory to support working waterfront initiatives, (4) efforts to highlight and drill down into the economics of working waterfronts, and (5) a report on legislative activities.



Jack Wiggin, Director, Urban Harbors Institute, University of Massachusetts Boston




Kristen Grant, Marine Extension Associate, Maine Sea Grant

Kenneth Walker, Program Analyst, NOAA's Office for Coastal Management

Dennis Ducsik, (retired) Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management

Bob Swett, Coordinator, Florida Sea Grant Boating and Waterway Planning Program

Natalie Springuel, Marine Extension Associate, Maine Sea Grant



Solving the Abandoned/Derelict Vessel Dilemma


Plenary Session #3 (Thursday 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM)


Since the earliest times in our nation’s maritime economy, vessels that had outlived their useful lives or economic viability have been scuttled. Large ships might find their way to a scrap yard, but small fishing boats and recreational craft are often left in some backwater or back lot, ostensibly to rot into obscurity. While a questionable cultural tradition in any period, this generally illegal practice persists today. The advent of fiberglass hulls in the small craft (<65-feet) workboat and recreational markets since the 1950’s have only compounded the problem as, it’s been said, “fiberglass is forever.” The seeming steady increase in abandoned, derelict, and just plain “neglected” small craft pose navigation, environmental and land-use challenges in waterfronts across the country.

This Plenary Session will examine three dimensions of the “derelict dilemma” by highlighting:

• A state-based program successfully dealing with abandoned vessel removal/disposal today (Washington Department of Natural Resources).

• A state-based prevention program targeting small craft “at risk” of becoming abandoned through on-water intervention (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission).

• Viable vessel disposal and fiberglass scrap recycling operations in Europe and Japan, with emphasis on debris management and materials science obstacles that currently prevent development of this small business opportunity for the U.S. marine trades industry.



Ryck Lydecker, Boat Owners Association of The United States



Steve Sewell, Director of Economic Development for the Maritime Sector, State of Washington

Maj. Richard Moore, Leader, Boating and Waterways Section, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Dennis Nixon, Director, Rhode Island Sea Grant, University of Rhode Island



NWWN Policy Roundtable: Bracing for Working Waterfront Policy Change


Plenary Session #4 (Thursday 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM)


Around the country, working waterfronts are subject to policy and legislative changes. Some of these changes provide opportunity. In Washington State, for example, recent policy initiatives from the Governor’s office have spurred action to support working waterfronts and their affiliated workforce. Other changes are more challenging. Maine’s current governor Paul Lepage, for example, is withholding voter-approved bond funds intended to protect working waterfronts and undermining jobs and infrastructure.

This roundtable discussion will focus on the priority issues facing working waterfronts; new policy directions emanating from such initiatives as ocean planning and climate preparedness; and the need to advance federal and state legislation to support coastal programs, address critical dredging needs, provide support for waterfront industries. This session will be moderated by the NWWN Policy Committee, and feature policymakers, academics and practitioners providing national, state and local perspectives and updates to illustrate policy impacts, approaches and opportunities. We will explore successful policy approaches, examining how they have worked and why.

Following the panelist presentations, attendees will be encouraged to engage in dialogue around the following question: How can the National Working Waterfront Network and attendees of this symposium work together to affect positive change for waterfront communities? Attendees will have ample opportunity to interact with the panel to enrich the dialog and shape the working waterfront agenda for the coming years.



Natalie Springuel, Coastal Community Development Extension Associate, Maine Sea Grant



Jack Wiggin, Director, Urban Harbors Institute, University of Massachusetts Boston

Nicole Faghin, Coastal Management Specialist, Washington Sea Grant

Hugh Cowperthwaite, Director, Fisheries Project, CEI | Capital for Opportunity and Change

John Sprague, Director of Government Affairs, Marine Industries Association of Florida

Steve Sewell, Director of Economic Development for the Maritime Sector, State of Washington



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