In early 2009, the DSF was awarded $215,500 in grant funding though the Maine Riverfront Community Development Bond program for development of the East Machias Aquatic Research Center (EMARC). The program requires that DSF raise an equal amount through a combination of cash and in-kind donations for the project. In 2005, the town of East Machias declared a “slum and blight” designation of the 80+ year-old former Bangor Hydro Electric (BHE) building, located downtown on the bank of the East Machias River. The vacant and dilapidated structure, owned by the Downeast Salmon Federation, was donated by BHE in 2000 following the landmark removal of the associated hydro dam and ambitious riverfront stabilization project which earned a Coastal America Partnership Award in 2001.
The designation was good news for DSF. The town’s decision provided a unique opportunity for riverfront revitalization, making DSF eligible to apply for state and federal funding programs focusing on community development and downtown revitalization, including Maine’s new Riverfront Community Development Bond which provides funding in the form of matching grants to enhance local quality of place and to promote environmentally sustainable economic activity along Maine rivers.
The DSF, in close partnership with Washington Academy (East Machias) and the University of Maine at Machias, is in the process of converting the structure into a state of the art fresh water aquatic research facility, conservation hatchery, and community fisheries center. Once completed, the new, 7,262 sq. ft. East Machias Aquatic Research Center (EMARC) will include a freshwater, flow-through research and fisheries enhancement hatchery, a museum and visitors center, an archival storage room, a wet laboratory/ classroom, a certified water quality laboratory, a GIS and technical resources center, and office space for staff and visiting researchers.
In less than two years, the DSF has made significant progress on the EMARC project, raising over $700,000 in grant funding and private donations. We have completed several significant renovations to the building, including a new roof and chimney, remodeling and expansion of the second floor and exterior walls, and an attractive new post-and-beam main entrance to the building. In addition, a 6,000-watt, grid-tied solar power system was installed that will provide electricity for the visitor center, museum, offices and meeting space. The preliminary schematic design for EMARC was created by architect Carla Haskell of the Design Group Collaborative (Ellsworth, ME) who donated her time and services for this phase of the project. Design features include a 1,030 sq ft hatchery that will allow flexibility in configuration to accommodate multiple research projects and enhancement rearing. The hatchery began operations in early spring 2009. This May, approximately 20,000 land-locked Atlantic salmon reared from eggs hatched at EMARC will be released into the East Machias watershed in collaboration with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Since the inception of the EMARC project, the DSF has engaged in extensive discussions with all entities and agencies involved with salmon and fisheries-related research in the region. As a result of those discussions, the parties agreed that there is a critical need for a freshwater flow-through research hatchery in the region. Based on that feedback and support, the DSF is moving forward with this exciting project. The primary water source for the new hatchery will be the East Machias River. The intake system, installed in October 2007, includes two 4” (internal diam.) pipes which will allow for substantial flow-through capacity. With all necessary permits in place, the DSF could be rearing up to 10,000 East Machias River salmon as early as January 2009.
The DSF will actively recruit researchers to utilize the new hatchery space for applied fisheries research projects. The new facility will accommodate up to 50,000 salmon fry annually. Depending on the needs of the federal Atlantic salmon restoration program, EMARC could provide additional capacity where Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery is limited, as well as serve as an alternate rearing facility to provide genetic insurance for the East Machias stock in the event of catastrophic failure at the Craig Brook facility.
Stay tuned for updates on this exciting project!