Friday, October 09, 2009

Federal stimulus funds help pay for new, cleaner marine engines

by Hanna Wheeler

Jason Witham, captain of the 40-foot Siren, stands between his old engine, on the left, and his new engine. Hanna Wheeler
Old diesel engines in 40 boats will be replaced, thanks to a program run by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

One of the first fishermen to replace his boat's engine through this program is Jason Witham, captain of the 40-foot Siren, out of Tenants Harbor. "Without this opportunity, I would not have been able to put a newer, cleaner engine in my boat," Witham said.

Billings Marine is replacing Witham's old 692 Detroit Diesel (which used about 50 to 55 gallons of diesel per day) with a new Caterpillar C9 (which will use about 30 gallons per day).

The program, funded by the federal stimulus program, covers half the cost of the engine and installation. Witham says he'll save about $20,000 of the $43,000 it would take to purchase and install the new engine.

The state Department of Environmental Protection is distributing $1.2 million through its clean marine engine program.

Some 330 qualifying applications for the program were submitted. Of those, 40 were accepted, including 30 lobster boats, four fishing vessels, a schooner, an aquaculture boat, the island-service boat Sunbeam, and three island ferries: Cranberry Island's Island Queen, Monhegan's Elizabeth Ann, and the Isle Au Haut ferry.

This program is the first of its kind. "Maine's program will serve as a national model for the benefits of repowering commercial marine vessels," said DEP Commissioner David Littell, in a press release.

Julie Eaton, a lobsterman from Deer Isle, says her husband, Sidney Eaton, will be able to replace his boat's engine through the program. "It takes so much weight off our shoulders," she said. "It's like winning the lottery." The program will also benefit the community, she said, since money invested in such upgrades circulates through marine businesses and local merchants. "It affects everybody," she said.

The DEP is working with the Maine Marine Trades Association and the Harvard School of Public Health to administer this program. The public health school is monitoring lobstermen's exposure to diesel exhaust before and after the engines are replaces, according to a press release.

In addition to paying for 50 percent of the cost of the engine and installation, the program pays 100 percent of the cost for exhaust controls that include pollution control devices, such as oxidation catalysts or systems that control crankcase emissions.

The DEP is accepting new applications and re-applications for a second round of funding. The deadline is November 1. See www.maine.gov/dep/air/mobile/clean_marine.htm or call 287-7599 for more information.

Hanna Wheeler is the communications coordinator Maine Lobstermen's Association. Working Waterfront Editor David A. Tyler also contributed to this article.

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