Fishing boats sit moored in Cobscook Bay off a state-owned landing in Lubec. With the help of a $19 million federal grant, Lubec officials plan to build a breakwater that will provide a sheltered mooring field off a waterfront property roughly a half mile away, near the intersection of Main and South streets. Credit: Bill Trotter

The town of Lubec is getting more than $19 million from the federal government to construct what the town has never had since its founding in the early 1800s: a safe place for boats to tie up year-round.

The $19.65 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation will, in essence, create a new harbor in Lubec, a town that occupies the easternmost peninsula in the United States. A stone breakwater will be built jutting west into Johnson Bay from a waterfront parcel near the intersection of Main and South streets, which the town acquired last year with the help of $54,000 grant from the state Land for Maine’s Future program.

According to Carol Dennision, chairman of the local board of selectmen, a conceptual draft calls for vehicle access along the top of the breakwater so fishermen can drive out to the end to load and unload their gear. The end of the structure will turn toward the south, creating a protected mooring field. There will be space for 30 boats to tie up along with a boat ramp and a dock with floats where the breakwater connects to shore.

“We’re hoping to finalize engineering soon,” Dennison said. The project, she added, “has been three years in the making.”

Dennison said that currently, the only current public boat access in Lubec is the state-owned landing in the village at the tip of the peninsula, at the end of Water Street. There is a ramp there and seasonal floats, she said, but it is not sheltered.

The state landing is very exposed — from the site, Eastport is visible 2 miles to the north across the entrance to Cobscook Bay — and it can be dangerous in rough winter weather for fishermen in skiffs to get to and from their fishing boats moored off the landing, Dennison said.

She estimated that 30 to 40 fishing boats are registered in Lubec, including those owned by fishermen who live in neighboring municipalities and townships. Including clam and worm diggers, who often access digging areas by smaller boats, there are roughly 100 fishermen who come and go from Lubec for work, Dennison said. The facility also will be available for use by recreational boaters.

According to officials with the Land for Maine’s Future Program, from 2006 to 2016 the value of commercial fish harvests from the Cobscook Bay Region totaled $91 million.

The construction of the breakwater in Lubec will provide fishermen in Cobscook Bay, the busiest area for Maine’s annual $6 million scallop fishery, with an alternative to Eastport’s breakwater and pier. That facility was rebuilt in 2017 for $15 million after it partially collapsed in late 2014, injuring a man, sinking one boat and damaging others.

Dennison credited local fisherman Julie Keene, who has served as Lubec’s harbormaster and its shellfish warden, and Sen. Susan Collins for helping to secure the federal funding. She said the goal is to start construction by late next summer and to have the breakwater completed by 2023.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....