PORTLAND — Officials at the Portland Fish Exchange have worried that a failing refrigeration system might force them to close the auction facility once the summer’s heat arrived.

Those worries are over.

The city will receive a $320,000 grant from the federal Economic Development Administration to make immediate repairs to the refrigeration system, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, announced Monday.

The money will be used to replace refrigeration equipment that was installed in the 1990s and has developed significant leaks. The funding will also enable the Fish Exchange to buy new equipment to wash totes — the plastic boxes where fish are stored in the facility.

Fish Exchange officials say the refrigeration system is working in the current cool weather, but could fail when warmer weather arrives this summer.

Pingree said federal officials have agreed to process a request to expedite the grant so the Fish Exchange can get the money as soon as possible.

Tom Valleau, who serves on the Fish Exchange’s board of directors, said the grant money will keep the exchange in business this summer.

“This is a perishable product,” he said. “The three rules of fish are: Keep it clean, keep it moving and keep it cold. If you can’t keep it cold, we are not in the game. This is wonderful news.”

Ninety-five percent of the fish landed in Maine goes through the Fish Exchange, which closes its annual books at the end of March. The auction house has struggled in recent years with record-low catches. This year, though, the exchange has made a turnaround.

Officials projected that 4 million pounds of fish would be landed at the exchange this year. In fact, 5 million pounds have been landed, Valleau said.

“It’s very nice to be 25 percent above our forecast,” he said. “This is the best year we’ve had in five or six years.”

Pingree’s husband, S. Donald Sussman, is a financier, philanthropist and frequent Democratic donor who is buying an equity stake in MaineToday Media, which owns and operates The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville and other media outlets in Maine.

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: TomBellPortland