Baker order aims to propel economies of 78 coastal communities

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Written by Colin A. Young

STATE HOUSE — Citing the environmental and economic importance of the state’s coastline, Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday morning signed an executive order reconstituting the state council devoted to supporting the state’s seaports.

The newly re-named Seaport Economic Council was charged Monday with providing “statewide coordination of all coastal community planning and investment activities, with the aim to stimulate economic development and create jobs in the maritime economy sector,” according to the order signed by Baker.

Baker said the council will focus on maritime economic opportunities in the Bay State’s 78 coastal communities while preparing to confront the challenges posed by sea level rise and increasingly powerful coastal storms.

“I actually live in a coastal community so this issue is particularly important to me,” said Baker, who lives in Swampscott. “Everybody who lives in one of those coastal communities and worries about them and manages them also have to deal with not just economic development issues and other issues that involve community development and community building, but we’re all going to be dealing with sustainability questions as we go forward with respect to sea levels and flood plain maps and all the rest.”

The council will fund a grant program targeting economic development projects that build upon a community’s coastal assets, maritime innovation, public education to foster coastal awareness and coastal infrastructure projects, an administration official said.

The group is also tasked with reviewing state programs and regulation related to coastal communities and advising Baker as to their effectiveness.

The council is the second iteration of what began in 1994 as the Seaport Advisory Council, which was created to bring attention to the state’s coastal resources, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said.

“This particular executive order continues that effort but also re-purposes it to make sure that we’re leveraging the coastal assets for blue jobs, marine jobs and really tying it to an economic component,” she said. “We find, after speaking with the mayors and our legislative officials and business people, that they really want to see the connections between the waterfront and their local economy.”

Polito will chair the council and Deputy Secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development Carolyn Kirk, a former mayor of Gloucester, will serve as its vice chair.

The council will also include Mayor Kim Driscoll of Salem, Interim Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken of Gloucester, Mayor Tom Koch of Quincy, Marine Oceanographic and Tech Network President Harlan Doliner and Matt Ciborowski, a transportation planner from MassDOT’s Ports Strategic Plan program.

Additional members, including representatives from coastal communities, trade associations representing the maritime economy, and “senior level staff” from the departments of Transportation and Energy and Environmental Affairs, will be announced at a later date, the governor’s office said.

Copyright State House News Service