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A bureau within the U.S. Department of Commerce


Success story: Rebuilding the Port of Galilee

May 2015 Newsletter

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Rehabbed Docks at the Port of Galilee

What if there were no roads leading to Disneyland? Everything about the park would be exactly the same – the rides, the characters, the souvenirs, the churros – but there would be no easy and reliable way to get to the “happiest place on earth.” While it’s true that the park is the attraction, the road that gets you there is critical. Infrastructure isn’t exciting or sexy, but it is necessary. It plays a vital role in supporting commerce, but it gets none of the glory. In fact, it only gets attention when it fails.

Since it was established as a commercial fishing port by the state of Rhode Island in the 1940’s, the Port of Galilee in Narragansett has grown to become one of the largest working commercial fishing ports on the East Coast, providing fish and lobster to both national and international markets. It includes 38 docks and piers and is home to over 240 commercial fishing vessels. The Port supports hundreds of small to medium-size businesses that attract hundreds of employees and thousands of tourists each year. Not only does fishing support critically important industries in the Rhode Island economy, but it also enhances the state’s culture and quality of life.

After more than 60 years of salt water, storms, and high traffic, the Port’s infrastructure began to show its age. A deteriorating bulkhead and structurally deficient state-owned piers and docks, were not only hazardous, but hampering the region’s development, growth, and advancement. In 2013, EDA invested $2.9 million in the Port of Galilee to repair and upgrade the infrastructure to help it maintain and expand its operations.

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Crumbling infrastructure at the Port of Galilee

"EDA’s funding provided half of the cost of project improvements, and we were pleased to be the recipient of these federal funds, particularly in such challenging times," said RI Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit. "The EDA grant has allowed us to undertake critical updates and improvements to the Port, ensuring this public infrastructure continues to serve the Rhode Island commercial and party/charter fishing industry. Capital investment in Port infrastructure is key to strengthening the commercial fishing industry, promoting tourism and enhancing the economic potential of the area."

According to a Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation report, the annual value of sales associated with fish landed by Rhode Island vessels is about $200 million and nearly 7,000 people are employed catching, processing, distributing, and selling the fish harvested by Rhode Island vessels.

EDA’s investment also helped spur local businesses to reinvest in the port.

“This investment into the piers and docks here in the Port of Galilee has a direct positive impact on the fishing community and port stakeholders,” said Ryan Clark, Vice President of local seafood processor and supplier Town Dock. “Witnessing this investment helped to give us the confidence to continue to reinvest in our own port businesses. This year our company is engaged in several capital investment projects to expand our freezing and seafood processing capacity, and upgrade our owned fishing vessels. We cannot just pick up and move our business – the port is an essential hub for Town Dock and our boats. Reinvestment into the port’s infrastructure supports fishing operations, and helps to keep jobs here in Rhode Island. We’ve been here for 35 years, and our long term strategy involves being an active member of the fishing community in Galilee.”

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Assistant Secretary Williams with Congressman Langevin and Senator Whitehouse with business owners at the Port of Galilee

Last month, the Rhode Island congressional delegation took Assistant Secretary Jay Williams on a tour of the state, which offered him the opportunity to see EDA’s impact at the dock and across the state firsthand.

Disneyland can only be the happiest place on earth – as well as serve as a major employer – when it’s accessible. “So next time you’re on the road to Disneyland or on a bridge to some exciting destination, be grateful for the working infrastructure that’s taking you there.