Harbor Master to conduct fish pier cost analysis

Rockland Fish Pier fees considered as reliance on grants ebbs

Posted:  Thursday, February 22, 2018 - 12:00pm

ROCKLAND –The Rockland fish pier needs a lot of work. Of interest is replacing the asphalt deck with concrete to make it less porous and longer lasting. Also of interest are electrical system upgrades, the piles, and dredging the northern and southern sides.

During the Harbor Management Commission meeting Feb. 20, Harbor Master Matt Ripley brought forth estimates of rehabilitation at $1.5 to $1.6 million. That money is still being sought, with a grant application in the works to the federal Economic Development Administration.

Ripley has met with Northern Borders Regional Commission, a federal-state partnership that promotes economic development in distressed New England counties, and which awarded the city $350,000 last year. The state of Maine granted $250,000. And next week he will give a presentation to the Lobster Festival Association. 

However, Ripley doesn’t want to rely solely on grants.

 Rockand Fish Pier’s recent history

In 2003, the nonprofit Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) was commissioned by Rockland to write a plan for the future of the Rockland Fish Pier. The pier was reinforced was state attention and funding between 1982 and 1987, when fish piers in Cape Porpoise (Kennebunkport), Saco, Portland, Rockland, Vinalhaven, Stonington and Eastport were constructed or reconstructed.

The Rockland Fish Pier was the last facility completed, at a cost of $1.2 million, according to the report.with the following funding mix: MDOT: $600,000; EDA: $500,000; and the City of Rockland: $150,000. 

Prock Marine Company of Rockland carried out pier reconstruction at the 2.45-acre McLoon’s Wharf site during 1986-87. 

The City’s first tenant at the pier, Coastal Tankers and Petroleum, had berthed their vessels there before it came under municipal ownership.

From 1988- 93, Charles Donahue was the operator of the Rockland Fish Pier; during 1993-1998, David and Charlene MacDonald ran the facility. The final operator was Water Street Management, who took over the fish pier in 1998 and concluded operations in December 2001. 

Since that time, the City of Rockland has managed the fish pier. 



“The whole premise for this really is sort of a 10-year recapitalization plan where it’s great to be able to bring in X amount of money on an annual basis to run the fish pier, but you also have to think long term. What is it going to cost us in 10 years to recapitalize what we just used for 10 years?”

No one knows if those grants will be available in 10 years, or if Rockland would qualify for them at that time, he said.

Therefore, in the next few weeks, prior to City budget talks, he’ll assess costs associated with running the pier and whether those costs need to be increased. From the lobstermen and the buying stations, the seiners at the end of the pier, to the bait stations, all users will be evaluated.

“It’s pretty simply math,” he said. “It costs X amount of money to run the fish pier. You can either increase the users at the fish pier, which should increase revenue, or you can maintain the amount of users that we have right now and increase the current fees.

“The goal is to be able to make it usable for the local fishermen,” he said.

Yet limbs and branches of that goal stretch in broader directions. The goal of dredging is to create more space for more boats, he said, that would allow usage of the full length of the pier, equaling more vessels, more cost share.

Therefore, relying entirely on grants is generating some difficulties, according to Ripley.

“We’ve had a very difficult time trying to apply for these grants, and get them,” he said. “It’s been a long road. And as we all know, anybody who has walked on the fish pier knows that it should have been rehabilitated well before today.”

According to the city’s website: 

“For almost three decades the Rockland Fish Pier has proven to be a vital facility for fisherman, fuel transport, transient herring carriers, seasonal aquaculture harvesters (sea urchins and seaweed), local island residents, ground fishing vessels, buyers, and smacks. This facility provides vital waterfront access and support services for fishermen and other marine industries up and down the midcoast as well as an effective platform to bring buyers and sellers together.

“This facility enables more than 100 working men and woman to operate in their trade while also offering parking and a secure area for gear repair.  The Rockland location of this facility is easily accessible to local repair facilities, parts suppliers and groceries for island residents.

“Given the age of the pier, it is understandably in need of major rehabilitation work to address deck and structural issues that are typical of similar facilities at this stage of life.  Accordingly, improvements to Fish Pier will allow the city to preserve the asset, better maintain and maximize the pier's current footprint and operate at a more efficient level.”