Congresswoman Chellie Pingree announced today that the City of Portland will be getting a $320,000 Economic Development Administration grant to make immediate repairs to the refrigeration system at the Portland Fish Exchange.
"Ninety-five percent of the fish landed in Maine goes through the Fish Exchange," Pingree said. "Keeping that facility operating--and keeping the fish cold--is critical. The refrigeration system is in immediate need of repair and the work needs to start soon. This federal funding is going to make it possible to get some new equipment in right away."
The grant, which will go to the City of Portland, will be used to replace refrigeration equipment that was installed in the 1990s and has developed significant leaks. Fish Exchange officials say the current system is working in the current cool weather, but they are worried the system will fail when warmer weather arrives this summer.
"One piece of the refrigeration system has failed and the rest of it isn't too far behind," said Bert Jongerden, General Manager of the Fish Exchange. "This funding is coming in the nick of time and we're going to get the repair work started as soon as possible."
Portland Mayor Michael Brennan welcomed news of the EDA grant.
"Portland's groundfishing industry is an important part of Maine's heritage and economy, but without critical infrastructure improvements, our boats could sail elsewhere. This award makes these much needed improvements possible, helping support the long-term operation of the Portland Fish Exchange and the vital services it provides to our local fishermen," Brennan said.
Pingree said the federal officials have agreed to process a request to expedite the grant award so the Fish Exchange can access the funds as soon as possible.
The funding will also enable the Fish Exchange to buy new equipment to wash totes--the plastic boxes that fish are stored in while inside the facility.