STONINGTON, Maine — The air along the coast of Maine will be a little cleaner and fishermen will spend less on fuel thanks to an influx of federal stimulus dollars that targets older, polluting marine engines.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday officially kicked off its Maine Clean Marine Engine Program, which uses more than $1.2 million in federal funds to help Maine fishermen and others repower their vessels with newer, cleaner burning and more fuel-efficient engines.
The kickoff came at Billings Diesel and Marine in Stonington, one of a dozen or so boatyards that will do the work of replacing the engines in boats along Maine’s coast from Kennebunk to Eastport. The DEP is partnering with the Maine Marine Trades Association, which will administer the program.
“We’re just tickled to be part of this,” said Sidney Easton, 65, of Deer Isle whose 26-foot lobster boat Kimberly Bell has been approved for a new engine.
“I’ve got an old engine and it’s tired,” he said. “If it wasn’t for this, I couldn’t afford to put an engine in, not the way fishing is.”
Eaton said he expects to cut his fuel consumption in half once his new diesel engine is installed. That’s an incentive for most of the applicants including lobsterman Jason Witham, whose 40-foot vessel Siren was in the Billings machine shop, one of the first boats to get a new engine installed under the program. He is anxious to get back on the water and said he expects the new engine will start saving him money from Day One.
“The biggest benefit is that the new engine is much more efficient,” Witham said. “In a day, I burn between 50 and 55 gallons. With the new engine in place, I expect to burn about 30. So right there, every day I’ll be saving money that way.”
With the Siren and a row of new marine engines plus Siren’s old diesel engine as a backdrop in Billings’ machine shop, Lynne Cayting, mobile services section chief with DEP Bureau of Air Quality, said the program will help reduce harmful emissions from the old engines and also boost a section of Maine’s economy that has been hard hit by the recession.
“The Clean Marine Engine Program will replace some of the dirtiest engines in Maine with the cleanest available engine technology,” Cayting said.
She said the DEP expects to see a 70 percent reduction in emissions in the boats that replace the older engines with new diesel engines that meet new EPA Tier II standards.
The program is the first statewide program to repower commercial fishing vessels and will serve as a national model, Cayting said. There already has been interest from fishermen around the country, but she stressed that this was a Maine program that targets Maine vessels.
As part of the project, DEP also is working with the Harvard School of Public Health to assess lobstermen’s exposure to harmful diesel exhaust before and after the engines are replaced.
Cayting, who spearheaded the program and application for federal funds, said the DEP received more than 330 applications for the program, which will pay half the cost of the purchase and installation of the new engines. The boat owner pays the other half.With the available funding, she said, they plan to replace engines in at least 40 vessels. The approved boats include 30 lobster boats, four fishing vessels, a schooner, an aquaculture boat, three island ferries and the Sunbeam, the vessel owned by the Maine Seacoast Mission that travels to Maine’s isolated island communities.
Projects will range in cost from about $20,000 to about $110,000, Cayting said.
The DEP selected the boats based on the cost effectiveness for reducing nitrogen oxide and diesel particulate based on annual fuel use, rated horsepower, engine emission factors and the cost of the new engine.
Susan Swanton, executive director of the Maine Marine Trades Association, said the program benefits two of Maine’s oldest industries, fishing and boat building, industries that have been hit hard by the recession.
“This program has huge benefits,” Swanton said. “It helps them to be able to do what they love to do. It keeps the fishermen doing what they do so the boatyards can do what they do. It puts the boatyards to work so we can dig out of this recession we’ve been in.”
Swanton said the engine replacement program complements association’s Maine Clean Boatyards & Marinas Program, a voluntary initiative that works with boatyards and marinas to meet and exceed environmental standards. Working on the engine program will give the association a chance to work with some boatyards not yet included in the program, she said.
Greg Sanborn, the service manager at Billings, said the program will help him keep the crew of 12 in the machine shop busy. Replacement of the engines provides a challenge for the crew, he said.
“Each boat is different,” he said. “The bigger ferries will be tricky. But we’re set up for it. That’s what we do here.”
Some engines will have to come up through two decks and will require carpentry and fiberglass work, providing additional work for other shops at the boatyard. Billings expects to handle nine or 10 of the engine replacements.
Julie Eaton, Sidney Eaton’s wife and a lobster fisherman herself, praised the stimulus program and noted that it doesn’t just benefit one fisherman, but also helps the boatyard, the engine manufacturers and the small businesses in town that she and her husband do business with.
“Sure, it helps my husband, that’s one person, but it’s helping businesses throughout the town,” she said. “It’s affecting the whole community.”
Because of the response to the program, Cayting said she plans to apply to EPA through the Diesel Emission Reduction Act Program for an additional $1 million to extend the program for another year. The expanded program also will be open to some fishermen in New Hampshire, Cayting said, but it will include the requirement that the work done on the boats be done in Maine.