TENANTS HARBOR, Maine — The state has finalized a deal to preserve a long-time commercial fishing wharf.
The Maine Department of Marine Resources obtained a working waterfront covenant March 11 on the wharf owned by the four Miller brothers — Hale, Ira, Dan and Peter — at 12 Commercial St. in Tenants Harbor.
The covenant means that the pier must be used for commercial fishing.
The brothers, all commercial fishermen, inherited the property from their parents in 2002. They undertook considerable improvements to the wharf, including adding four hydraulic hoists to increase efficiencies, according to a news release from Coastal Enterprises Inc. of Wiscasset. They also dredged in the area to provide access for loading bait and unloading catch regardless of the tide.
The wharf is used by more than 100 lobstermen, scallopers, urchin fishermen and seaweed harvesters. Over the years, landings have included shrimp and groundfish.
In exchange for the working waterfront covenant, which ensures the wharf owners cannot develop or use the property for anything other than commercial working waterfront activities, the state will pay $250,000, an amount determined by a standardized working waterfront property appraisal, according to the news release.
“Those funds will allow us to increase the operating efficiency of the business on the wharf,” Hale Miller stated in the news release. “That will bring the operating costs down which will benefit all the fishermen who use the wharf.”
“With the working waterfront funds, my brothers and I can now be assured that this property will be kept as commercial working waterfront for fishermen in the community as well as generations of Millers who want to continue in the commercial fishing business,” Miller said.
He said his parents worked hard to keep this property as a working waterfront and despite increased pressure along the coast from developers, this property will continue to provide access for commercial fishermen. Four generations of Millers have fished from the wharf.
The Working Waterfront Access Protection Program is overseen by the Department of Marine Resources, which works with Coastal Enterprises to administer the program. Coastal Enterprises provides technical assistance to owners of commercial fishing access properties applying to the program.
“We have worked with the Miller family for over a decade on a variety of projects,” Dick Clime, project developer for Coastal Enterprises, said. “Having Millers’ wharf preserved as working waterfront is a significant win for this small fishing community. It’s these communities that, when you string them together, make up Maine’s coastal economy and create thousands of jobs.”
Patrick Keliher, Department of Marine Resources commissioner and chair of the Land for Maine’s Future Board, said, “I’ve come to know and admire this family during my time as commissioner. Their commitment to maintaining this property for commercial access is just another testament to their dedication to this critically important industry.”
With 25 projects in the program, the protected commercial fishing properties total more than 42 acres and occupy almost 1.5 miles of Maine shorefront, according to officials. Cumulatively the properties service 940 boats, 1,680 fishermen and provide economic support for at least 1,730 families. Nearly 21.4 million pounds of seafood are landed at the properties annually, worth about $49.2 million dockside.