Some South Portland officials want the city to upgrade the Portland Street Pier to support a growing demand for aquaculture. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

SOUTH PORTLAND — Local lobstermen, scallop fishermen and aquaculture operators have been invited to weigh in on the possible redevelopment and expansion of the city-owned Portland Street Pier.

Some city officials see an economic development opportunity for the long-neglected municipal pier, particularly in aquaculture, as the farming of mussels, oysters and other shellfish increases in nutrient-rich Casco Bay.

The city is working with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and GEI Engineering of Portland on a site assessment, feasibility analysis and conceptual design for what could be a multimillion-dollar project. A resulting pier master plan, including a comprehensive industry needs assessment by the institute, is expected to be completed in June.

“We want to give people an understanding of the city’s master planning process and also to understand how the pier might be useful to them,” said Chris Vonderweidt, the research institute’s aquaculture program manager. “They should think big. It could be a lot more than what’s there today.”

The meeting will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on March 19 at the institute’s headquarters at 350 Commercial St. in Portland.

The institute has invited fishermen and aquaculture operators within 10 miles of the pier, which is off Front Street in the Ferry Village neighborhood, wedged among the Sunset Marina, the Saltwater Grille restaurant and a couple of massive green fuel tanks owned by the Portland Pipe Line Corp.

City officials are especially interested in attracting some of the more than 30 aquaculture operators working more than 50 sites between Cumberland and Old Orchard Beach, Vonderweidt said.

The city has owned the Portland Street Pier since the late 1800s. The pier now operates as a seasonal fishing pier, with 11 of 15 slips leased from April through November for $1,250 per year, mostly to lobstermen and other small fishing boats. The pier includes a modest wood-frame building that’s available for lease and used primarily for storage.

The entire facility generates about $20,000 in revenue annually, which limits how much the city is willing to spend on maintenance and improvements, especially given limited parking, seasonal use and the need to dredge the site. The city was awarded a $30,000 grant last year from the Maine Department of Marine Resources to develop the master plan.

Vonderweidt said the city is taking an unusual step to anticipate how the pier’s infrastructure might be improved and expanded to attract new participants in the region’s vibrant fishing heritage.

“It’s a unique and visionary project, and it’s very exciting to be a part of it,” Vonderweidt said.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: KelleyBouchard

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