BOSTON — The House version of the fiscal 2013 state budget proposal includes money to continue to run a shellfish purification plant on Plum Island without requiring North Shore clammers themselves to pick up a share of the tab.
The Newburyport Shellfish Purification Plant on Plum Island, the oldest continually operating facility of its kind in the country, had been targeted to have its funding eliminated under a plan advanced by Gov. Deval Patrick.
But the House budget for the coming year includes an allocation for $400,000 to keep the plant operating.
About 30 shellfishermen from across Massachusetts had turned out for a March meeting organized by state Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr at the state Division of Marine Fisheries building in Gloucester to seek support for the plant — and to keep it operating without they're having to cover the cost.
The facility serves as a vital processing facility for diggers working semi-contaminated flats identified in Newburyport, Salisbury, Boston, Weymouth, Quincy, Hull, Revere, Saugus and Winthrop.
While the facility is not regularly needed or used by clammers out of Essex or Gloucester, the extended use of the plant is seen as a means of helping local clammers avoid state shutdowns of the clam beds after heavy rains.
Tarr, the Gloucester Republican and state Senate Minority Leader, and Newburyport-based state Rep. Michael Costello have been the primary lawmakers pushing to keep the plant open with sufficient state funding.
"It's not only (about) the purification plant," Tarr said previously. "It's about shellfishing issues in the North of Boston region, having to do with how frequently the shellfishing beds are being tested, the amount of time they are closed and the amount of time it takes to open them."
Costello said he sees the House budget support for the clam purification plant as a sign that lawmakers want to respond to the clammers' pleas.
"We heard from clammers and local businesses that the shellfish plant was an important part of the economy here," Costello said in a prepared statement. "The plant has an exceptional record of producing quality products."
Beyond the $400,000 to operate the plant, the House budget also calls for adding a new service at the plant, "wet storage and desanding."
The state may collect fees from this new service, and may spend up to $100,000 of those fees on operating the plant, according to the Hosue budget proposal. A report must also be submitted next year detailing the revenues and expenses incurred by providing this service.
The House budget calls for $32.3 billion in spending overall.