BBEDC Boosts Reimbursement Program for Vessel Upgrades

A community development quota entity serving Southwest
Alaska’s Bristol Bay salmon harvesters will invest thousands of dollars more in
2015 into helping fishermen upgrade their vessels.
Starting Jan. 15, the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp.
in Dillingham, will be accepting applications for reimbursement of up to
$35,000 for drift gillnetters and $17,500 for setnetters, plus an additional
$20,000 specifically for refrigeration equipment, said Norm Van Vactor,
president and chief executive officer of BBEDC.
Given a mission of economic development, the board decided
to dig deeper into our earnings pocket this year, Van Vactor said.
To strike an even better deal for those interested in
refrigeration upgrades, the CDQ group will be buying bulk multiple refrigeration
units, “so we get more bang for our buck,” Van Vactor said.
BBEDC began a decade ago offering a reimbursement grant
program for residents of communities served by the CDQ group, with
reimbursement amounts increasing over the years.
In 2014, reimbursement grants for drift gillnetters were
$20,000 and for setnet equipment, $10,000, said Fritz Johnson, regional
fisheries director for BBEDC.
Over the last couple of years, about $1 million a year has
been spent on the program, he said.
Any full-time resident of communities served by the BBEDC
can apply online at for the program, provided they
have participated in the fisheries for the past three years and commit to
continuing to do so for three subsequent years, he said.
Once the application is approved, the individual can
contract with a vendor or supplier, and once the individual completes the
project, they will get reimbursed.
For a refrigeration grant, said Van Vactor, the individual
has to demonstrate that the vessel is capable of operating the equipment, that
the vessel is ready for installation of such equipment, has the hydraulic
capacity and is properly plumbed.
“This is how the two grants work in tandem with each other,”
he said. The vessel upgrade grants can be applied toward getting the vessel
capable of operating that new refrigeration equipment.

Studies that BBEDC has done in the past with Northern
Economics and other firms have shown that many of the vessels and much of the
equipment owned by watershed residents is older than those of non-residents,
Johnson said. The studies also found that a number of these vessels are less
likely to be refrigerated, and have lower horsepower than boats owned by
non-residents, and that these people have less capital to pay for these
upgrades, he said.