Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
The Fish House Redemption

The Fish House Redemption

I saw the project online, I saw the
building, it was for sale. It was an old dilapidated fish shack.
I thought it was a very interesting building. In the process of doing the
due diligence, I got a call from a, and they were trying to put a upweller in there for using this as a nursery for
shellfish. I said this would be a great use for the property, so we went on the
venue that we’re going to try to do a new building here. So I said I need more
help and I went to get an engineering firm involved with me that’s very
familiar with work on the waterfront and especially with conservation and
Chapter 91 DEP. So I hired Coastal Engineering. We made submittal to the
local Conservation Commission here in Harwich and had our first hearing, and
lo and behold! some of the abutters came with some experts on their own and they
started bringing to light what they deemed to be deficiencies of faults with
the project, and that really started a journey for Fran that continued on and
got more and more and more difficult as we got into the permitting process. Ultimately,
after a long battle, hard-fought battle we did receive formal approval from
the state at that level. In the meantime, Fran (this takes months
and months and months) so in the meantime, Fran decided to regroup and decided to just try to
just renovate the building that presently existed at the time, and that’s what you see here today. The building back in February 2016 was just about ready to fall in the water. There’s a process for the emergency
provision under the Wetlands Protection Act that allows structures that are in
the coastal zone to be repaired under an emergency request, as long as two town officials sign off and agree that it is a threat to public safety as well as the wetland resource areas. I went to a colleague of mine, roommate
from undergraduate school and a structural engineer and I explained the
problem. He came down, looked at it. He said you know, we don’t have much time to do
this, it’s really failing, and the Harbormaster was there the Conservation
was there. So he worked about three or four days, day and night, and he came up with an innovative plan which has never been done before. We were just going to keep our fingers crossed I was going to work and we went right at it and used steel, structural steel with
some piles to stabilize the building. So Fran was able to get a contractor in here, actually build everything. And as you can see, that’s a pretty benign project, and I can notice
myself when I’m standing here, I hear the birds and I hear the upwellers, and I hear the
actual shellfish, you know, bubbling, but it’s not offensive, it’s actually a
really nice project. I currently work on the four upwellers here for the nursery. We have a hatchery in Dennis, so once the seeds, the babies get to
a certain size, they can come outside to upwellers, where water gets pumped in
through a drain, and then they go into the water and that’s where the filter
feeders like the oysters and clams filter the water and then the clean water goes
back into the ocean. The difference that this ocean has made compared to Dennis is insane, the growth is insanely more, clams love this water. Everything
that was growing maybe one or two millimeters for the whole summer in Dennis
is growing like one or two millimeters in like a week here. You can see
the algae in the water, you can tell that the clams and oysters are really happy
here. So we have three types of shellfish here: we have quahogs, we have oysters, and then we have surf clams that are also known as butter clams. So I have some right here, these are some of our smallest oysters. They started off as five millimeters. These ones are largest, these are twelve millimeters. These are our surf clams in the middle, they like to move. And then we have two sets of quahogs. Once they get to a certain size, we either
bring them to our own grants or we sell them to other oyster/clam farmers. We
supply about 80% of clams and oysters on Cape. If you notice the sign, “The fish
house redemption”. I needed to put some type of name on the building. I found the
word “redemption”, which means “save from evil”. Saving was saving the fish house,
original fish house. So I called it “The fish house redemption”.
So, everyone likes the name by the way, except those three neighbors. It was just, you know, we really
went overboard on the aesthetics, we you know, put new roof, new siding, we put railings, we put decks, we put windows. We really architecturally
switched the fish house and made it more compatible with the neighborhood. Actually, people drive by and think it’s a house, someone is living in here. So it’s not really set up like a
commercial building would be, it’s more set up to residential, to fit with the architecture of the neighborhood. The town likes it, everyone’s really proud of it. It’s
something that I own the property now but I’m only the steward of the
property. You know, eventually it has to be passed on. I’m figuring if the A.R.C. wants to
purchase it or the town, keep it as an upweller. I think it’ll last forever, it’ll be sustainable food for the Cape. Kids in
high school can come in and look at this and learn about aquaculture. I think
it has a lot of educational value, it has a lot of practical value, environmental value,
more so than just the real estate value. I talked to my accountant, and he said
you know, I said “Joe, when can I break even on all the money I put into it?” And he said “You’d be 130 years old before you get your money back.” So I guess, you know, it’s not
a good investment, but I think it’s an investment really for the Cape itself.

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