The Portfields Initiative: Revitalising port and harbour communities



David Holst, Policy Analyst & Kenneth Walker, Program Analyst, NOAA’s Ocean Service, Silver Spring, MD, USA


“Portfields” is a federal interagency effort focused on the redevelopment of brownfields in port and harbour communities with an emphasis on development of environmentally sound port facilities, environmental restoration and community revitalisation. Reuse of abandoned or underutilised properties in port communities can provide jobs and spur economic development by enhancing port infrastructure and improving the flow of commerce. In addition, port redevelopment can be done in a manner that protects human health, protects and restores critical habitat, ensures homeland security and provides a better quality of life for community residents. Portfields is led by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), along with the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Economic Development Administration, and the U.S. Maritime Administration.

In 2003, three Portfields pilots were selected: New Bedford, Massachusetts; Bellingham, Washington; and Tampa, Florida. The goal of the pilots is to produce on the ground results by enhancing coordination among federal, state and local partners and improving the delivery of financial and technical resources. By building local capacity and leveraging programs, these pilots are producing new models which are transferable to other coastal communities.

Why Portfields?

According to the American Association of Port Authorities, ninety-five percent of U.S. foreign trade travels through the nation’s ports, contributing $780 billion to the economy and employing 16 million people. Maritime trade is expected to double in the next 20 years. Many underutilised brownfields are located in and around port communities. Redevelopment of these areas is a critical solution to the many challenges facing ports, and can be a catalyst for enhancing port capacity and infrastructure, and waterfront and community revitalisation. There is a need for better coordination among federal, state, and local agencies to leverage resources and support port revitalisation.

To sustain and enhance our nation’s economy… America’s coasts and waterways play a vital role in the nation’s economy and quality of life. The benefits that ports bring to the communities they serve extend far beyond the boundaries of the waterfront. The ports serve as gateways to domestic and international trade, connecting the U.S. to the global marketplace.

To protect human health and the environment… Coastal areas and associated waterways represent some of the nation’s most valuable environmental resources, providing habitat for almost one-half of the nation’s protected, threatened, and endangered species. The location of ports within these rich and sensitive environments generates a variety of environmental and human health challenges, such as contaminated sediments, habitat degradation, storm water runoff, air quality, oil spills, and potential introductions of non-native species. Environmental quality is essential for sustaining coastal and marine ecosystems, commercial and recreational fisheries, and the economic vitality of port communities.

To promote smart growth and clean up urban shorelines… As undeveloped land in ports becomes increasingly scarce, ports must look toward revitalising abandoned or underutilised properties. In the U.S., approximately 10 to 15 percent of the estimated 500,000 brownfields are located along waterways and within coastal communities. Cleaning up and redeveloping these brownfields can put land back into productive use, enhance the economy, and create jobs. Smart growth planning and brownfields redevelopment can reduce sprawl which impacts air and water quality, habitat and open space, and community quality of life.

To ensure public access… With nearly one-half of the country’s population living near a coast, communities benefit from having access to waterfront areas for recreation and leisure activities. Redeveloping urban waterfronts improves the quality of life for citizens, and is an important strategy for community revitalisation.

To provide for increased maritime trade…The capacity of many ports is strained by increased maritime trade and the increasing size of cargo and cruise vessels. Maritime trade is expected to double over the next 20 years. Ports must increase their capacity, deepen and maintain channels, and enhance infrastructure to allow for the efficient movement of goods from the water to highway, air, and rail.

To enhance homeland security… As gateways to the global marketplace, port communities play a key role in homeland security. Ensuring the security of cargo, including more than seven million containers moving through U.S. ports each year, is a considerable challenge borne by ports. Ports also support the mobilisation, deployment, and supply of the U.S. military forces.


To read the full article download PDF

Cookie Policy. This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.