HARPSWELL — A South Portland-based company is looking to add a temporary addition to its oyster hatchery operation at Harpswell’s Mitchell Field. 

Last December, Harpswell selectmen approved the initial lease with Running Tide Technologies Inc., which allowed the company to lease 1.33-acres to open an oyster hatchery at Mitchell Field.

The property includes a garage and concrete slab that Running Tide Technologies Inc. transformed into a hatchery earlier this year. If granted planning board approval tonight, the company will add a 90-foot by 30-foot temporary building to the concrete slab. 

Marty Odelin, the owner of Running Tide Technologies Inc., said the new building will not change the number of oysters the company raises. Odelin does not know how many oysters the company raises in a season.  

“The new building will be designated for producing oyster feed. It allows us to make (the oysters) a little bigger and stronger before they go out into the ocean,” said Odelin. This new building is insulated, so we can control the climate as well.” 

When the hatchery first opened, it renovated a preexisting building leftover from Mitchell Field’s days as a former Navy site. 

“They’ve put power and heat in, insulated it, and fixed the roof,” said Mark Eyerman, Harpswell’s town planner. “They’ve done an enormous amount of work.”

The company also has to meet Maine Department of Environmental Protection standards because the hatchery uses pipes to take water from the ocean into the hatchery and then treat the water before it’s returned to the ocean. 

Mitchell Field sits on 112-acres on the west side of Harpswell Neck Road that served as a former fuel depot for the Brunswick Naval Air Station. The depot closed in 1992, and Harpswell acquired the land in 2001. 

According to the lease, Running Tide Technology Inc. pays just over $6,000 per year in rent to the town for the property, starting at $6,107 in the first year, with incremental increases until the rent reaches $6,874 in the fifth year. 

Eyerman said the building the company uses still belongs to the town.

Odelin said he thinks the investment is worthwhile because the company wanted to operate out of Harpswell. 

“It has fantastic water quality, and we really love the town of Harpswell,” said Odelin. “We love working with the people here and the town officials are very supportive. It just felt like the right place.” 

“It has been an excellent fit. The kind of work they’ve been doing has fit the definition of our marine district,” said Kristi Eiane, Harpswell’s town administrator. 

The state has three commercial hatcheries in Walpole/Damariscotta, Bremen and Beals Island, according to the Department of Marine Resources.

Oyster farmers rely on the hatcheries for seed, which they then grow at aquaculture sites leased from the state over multiple years until the oysters reach market size, which is 2.5 inches long. 

According to Eyerman, Running Tide Technologies Inc. has four aquaculture leases, all in Harpswell, but does not have a license to sell the oysters it raises. 

“They can use the baby oysters to seed their own aquaculture operations,” said Eyerman. 

In December, Odelin told The Times Record: “Our plan is to build equipment and to provide seed etc., and have our own farms and supply to other people as well.”

As part of the lease, the company has the option to expand to an adjacent 3.85-acre parcel to the east. In December, Odelin said if the company exercised that option, it would be looking to build greenhouses to grow feed for the seed and possibly grow more oysters in that area. 

Eiane said Running Tide Technologies Inc. will let the town know if they want to utilize more space by the end of the year. 

According to the hatchery’s lease, the oyster hatchery doesn’t affect current uses or future plans for the waterfront, including a floating pier system and boat ramp. 

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