GOULDSBORO – A section of former U.S. Navy property in the village of Corea would provide access to clean, cold seawater vital for raising halibut in captivity, according to a Holden businessman hoping to expand into the vacant facility.
“It is a wonderful site for a land-based halibut farm,” said Alan M. Spear, president of Maine Halibut Farms. “The reception we have received from the town so far has been very, very positive and we hope to do everything we can to keep it that way.”
Spear outlined his proposal, still in the early stages, Thursday night at the Oceanside Meadows Inn in Prospect Harbor. More than 50 people attended the presentation, organized as part of the inn’s Institute of Arts and Sciences program.
Accompanying Spear was Nick Brown, director of operations at the University of Maine’s Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research in Franklin, which has served as an incubator for several land-based aquaculture fisheries, including the halibut project.
Spear’s fish farm could be the business to use the developed part of the Corea property.
The University of Maine is scheduled to take ownership of the property, which has been abandoned since the Navy departed three years ago, and transfer it to Acadia Capital Corp., a nonprofit economic development agency associated with Eastern Maine Development Corp. The remaining 400 acres is slated to go to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for use as a nature preserve.
Acadia Capital Corp. would be the “keyholder” of the land, and would offer additional parcels to about a half dozen or so other businesses interested in using the property in ways compatible with the aquaculture project, EMDC business development director John Holden said.
“The primary focus is this connection with CCAR [the UMaine research center] and land-based aquaculture,” he said.
In 2003, Spear became interested in the site after Gouldsboro voters rejected an offer from the Navy to take over and redevelop the land. Last year, residents denounced a proposal to build a liquefied natural gas terminal at the former communications site.
Maine Halibut Farms, which already raises and sells fish to a handful of restaurants from Portland to Bangor, would be located in the waterfront area frequently referred to as the “elephant cage.” Through an easement from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the company would install a buried pipe to draw water from Frenchman Bay. The water would be used in the farm’s recirculation system and be discharged back into the bay.
Spear estimated the operation could create as many as 20 local jobs when it is in full swing.
Residents who attended the lecture asked about how the effluent from the facility would be treated, where the intake pipe would run, and whether the business would generate any traffic or odors.
Spear answered most of their questions but conceded that some details would be worked out during permitting processes, which he hopes will begin as soon as the title for the land clears. The proposal would be subject to review by the local planning board, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and would be scrutinized under the federal Clean Water Act and the Natural Resource Protection Act.
Ben Walter, proprietor of Oceanside Meadows Inn, is among those paying close attention to Maine Halibut Farms’ proposal. His inn is located just around Schoodic Point from the Corea facility. Walter is optimistic about the project, but is concerned about how nutrient levels in the effluent could affect the beauty and health of the coastal environment.
“I would like to see an environmental impact study,” he said, adding that the proposal “sounds, on the face of it, like a great opportunity to bring jobs to our community.”