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Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG) Program Summary

BIG program is designed to provide transient dockage for recreational boats 26 feet or more in length for recreational opportunities and safe harbors, as well as:

  1. enhance access to recreational, historic, cultural and scenic resources;

  2. strengthen community ties to the water’s edge and economic benefits;

  3. promote public/private partnerships and entrepreneurial opportunities;

  4. provide continuity of public access to the shore; and,

  5. promote awareness of transient boating opportunities.

The complete requirements of the National Boating Infrastructure Grant Program (50 CFR 86) as published in the Federal Register can be found at General information and program guidelines start at section 86.11 of the document.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to review all applicable federal and state requirements before submitting a BIG application. Four issues/concerns that commonly come up are:

  1. BIG is a reimbursement program…DNR will not “up front” any money. Additionally, applicants cannot start a project until entering into a formal agreement with DNR. Any costs incurred prior to the agreement being approved by DNR are the sole responsibility of the applicant and will not be reimbursed by DNR.

  2. The maximum reimbursement under BIG is 75% of the total project costs, however, in order to be competitive, Tier II projects (in excess of $100,000) typically provide significantly more match and have multiple partners. Although state funds may possibly be used as match for publicly owned facilities, state funds cannot be used as match at privately owned marinas, even if the marinas are open to the general public. Privately owned marinas must either provide their own match or find non-state/federal partners.

  3. The marina/boating facility must have at least 6’ of water (MLW). Although BIG funding may be used for “one-time dredging,” keep in mind that:

    -This dredging is only to give recreational transient non-trailerable boats safe channel depths between the tie-up facility and maintained channels or open water. BIG funding cannot be used to dredge an entire basin and if approved, may only be done once with federal funds from the basin to the main channel.

    -Once the channel is dredged, it becomes the marina/boating facility’s responsibility to maintain the channel for twenty years at a depth of 6 feet MLW, and to also maintain 6 feet depth MLW in the basin where the transient slips are located. Although publicly owned facilities may apply for state maintenance dredging funds, there is no guarantee that state funds will be available. Privately owned marinas are not eligible for state maintenance dredging funds even if the marinas are open to the general public and have received a BIG grant. The responsibility of maintaining 6 feet of depth MLW is entirely up to the owner(s) of the facility, and this would have to be surveyed at the expense of the owner if such depth is in doubt. The consequence of not being able to maintain this depth is that the BIG funding would have to be returned to the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

  4. A “Land Control Agreement” will be required on any facility except those owned by DNR which are already bound to the terms of the agreement. This agreement would specify the responsibilities of the recipient of the BIG funding for the expected ‘life’ of the improvements which is generally 20-30 years. Should the facility be privately owned, in addition to a Land Control Agreement, the owner would be required to record the receipt of the Federal funds and the existence of the Land Control Agreement in their property’s deed. In the event of a transfer of ownership of the property, these responsibilities and commitments would be passed on to the next owner. If this is not possible, the BIG fund invested in the property would have to be returned to the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

How to Apply:

BIG Program Manual

Appendix A - Application for Grant Funding Form

Appendix B - Sample Project Statement – Tier I (Town of Oxford)

Appendix B - Sample Project Statement – Tier II (City of Annapolis)

Appendix C - A Template for Developing a Proposal by FWS

Appendix D - Sample Land Control Agreement

Appendix E - Sample Notice of Grant Agreement

Grant Reimbursement Form

The reimbursement form for waterway improvement project is required because the BIG program is under Waterway Improvement Fund (WIF) Grant Program and sometimes WIF provides the required non-federal match depending on the project eligibility.

Who to Contact:

Carla Fleming, Program Director, 410-260-8447,

Li Lan Carson, Federal Project Lead, 410-260-8452,

Don O’Neill, Grant Specialist, 410-260-8435,

Chesapeake Bay Hotline

Call 1-877-224-7229

to report any of the following

  • Boating accident or reckless activity
  • Fish kill or algal bloom
  • Floating debris that poses a hazard to navigation
  • Illegal fishing activity
  • Public sewer leak or overflow
  • Oil or hazardous material spill
  • Critical area or wetlands violation
  • Suspicious or unusual activity