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Updated: July 2, 2024

Mi’kmaq trout hatchery is among Maine recipients of $7M in federal funds

A group of people assemble at the Mi’kmaq fish hatchery. Photo / COURTESY THE AROOSTOOK BAND OF Mi’kmaq ARCHIVE Seen here several years ago is Mi’kmaq Farms’ 34,000-gallon recirculating aquaculture facility, which produces native brook trout.

The Aroostook Mi’kmaq Council has been awarded $500,000 in federal funds toward a total project cost of $625,000 to expand its recirculating aquaculture brook trout hatchery. The goal is to create jobs, improve the long-term economic sustainability of the hatchery, and create economic and food resiliency within the community. 

The expansion is expected to support the Tribe’s mission of food sovereignty while also producing enough to market outside the community, according to a news release.

The grant comes from the Northern Border Regional Commission with support from the Northern Maine Development Commission. The project includes buying the equipment needed to have the capacity to raise and process triple the amount of fish the hatchery currently produces. 

“This is a game-changer for our fisheries program and the Mi’kmaq Nation’s goal to provide healthy and culturally relevant food to our community and beyond,” said Shannon Hill, environmental health director for the Mi’kmaq  Environmental Health Department.

The council was one of 12 organizations to receive a total of $7.37 million from the commission.

The awards were part of the spring funding round of the commission’s Catalyst Program, which is funded by the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“The NBRC has long helped provide rural regions with the economic tools they need to prosper,” said U.S. Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins in a joint statement. “This funding will help improve water infrastructure and roadways in communities across our state while strengthening our workforce and creating economic opportunities for Mainers.”

Waste upgrades

Sewer expansion and treatment plants are on tap for four municipalities. 

The town of Rockport in Knox County received $1 million toward a total project cost of $2 million for a sewer expansion project for commercial zones and additional sewer line to promote two housing developments aimed at providing over 50 housing units. 

In Aroostook County, the town of Grand Isle received $250,000 toward the project amount of $4.195 million for an upgrade to the water and wastewater treatment plants and four wastewater pump stations, as well as construction of new sludge drying beds.

The Oxford County town of Bethel and the Hancock County city of Ellsworth received $1 million each toward respective project costs of $3,063,664. For Bethel, the project is to upgrade the wastewater treatment system. Ellsworth plans to build a new water treatment plan on the site of the existing treatment plant.

Recreation economy

The community and visitor recreation economy was the focus of three projects.

In Aroostook County, the town of Fort Kent received $500,000 toward a project goal of $1 million to expand and relocate the town’s outdoor skating rink and support Aroostook County’s outdoor recreation industry. The Washburn Trailrunners Snowmobile Club received $44,704 toward the $55,880 needed to renovation a clubhouse to include construction of a fire-resistant wall, in support of Aroostook County’s snowmobile and outdoor recreation industry. 

In Penobscot County, the Maine Audubon Society is planning renovations and additions at its Fields Pond Audubon Center in Holden. The society received $756,544 toward the total cost of $946,456.

Washington County workforce

Workforce development is the focus of two projects in Washington County.

The Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center was awarded 484,447 toward the $625,359 needed for a workforce development project that’s expected to catalyze aquaculture development in Washington County. 

The Downeast Institute for Applied Marine Research and Education Inc. received $499,999 toward the $625,033 needed to renovate four unused seasonal cottages —adjacent to the institute’s marine laboratories, intertidal field research site, education center and shellfish hatchery — for year-round use by science personnel and new employees. 

Care providers

The Beth Brunswick Memorial Fund was awarded $1 million toward a total project amount of $3,254,363 to construct a nonprofit licensed childcare center in the Franklin County town of Rangeley, in with a capacity of up to 74 children. 

The Beth C. Wright Cancer Center, in Washington County, received $335,327 toward the $504,927 needed to create regional, collaborative community approaches to alleviating the burden of treatment on cancer patients and their families while increasing educational opportunity for those in treatment as well as their care providers.  

Created in 2008, the commission is a federal and state partnership focused on alleviating economic distress and encouraging private sector job creation in Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.

The awards were part of an overall $27 million in grants that went this spring to 33 organizations across the four states. The spring round attracted 110 applications for more than $106 million in funding requests.

From Maine, there were 25 applications for $19,457,059 in funds. Twelve were awarded a total of $7,371,022.

“Strong infrastructure and economic opportunities make for strong communities,” said Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02). “These grants will create good-paying jobs and support the health and safety of Maine families.”

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