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Nordic Aquafarms is nearing the end of a long permitting process for an on-land salmon farm in Belfast, Maine. Image: NAF.
Nordic Aquafarms is nearing the end of a long permitting process for an on-land salmon farm in Belfast, Maine. Image: NAF.

The company hoping to build an on-land salmon farm in Belfast in the US state of Maine was today reaching what it called an important milestone in a long effort to get permission for the project.

The final public hearing in front of the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) will examine Nordic Aquafarms’ plans for disposal of subtidal excavation material, and its proposed measures to ensure that local fisheries are not impacted.

Nordic Aquafarms (NAF), which intends to produce 33,000 tonnes of salmon a year in a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) facility, has faced continued opposition from a group of residents in the city, although it also has local support.

Ed Cotter: Application complies with all regulations.
Ed Cotter: Application complies with all regulations.

‘We are confident’

“We are confident that NAF has provided an application that is in conformance with all applicable regulations, and that a set of fair and comprehensive permits will be issued to allow us to proceed with the project”,  says Ed Cotter, the company’s senior vice president for the Maine project.  

NAF said in a press release that it anticipates that DMR comments will be prepared and issued to the Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) in a timely manner, allowing for final deliberations to begin. The company hopes to receive permits in the spring.

Marianne Ness, NAF’s executive vice president (commercial), said a recent BEP hearing had been conducted in an extremely professional and efficient manner that allowed for all parties to be heard.

“The BEP can now deliberate with solid, factual information presented to them,” said Ness. 

“Unfounded concerns by opponents have been refuted, and legitimate issues can now be addressed through compliance requirements and proper permit conditions that will ensure that the natural environment is always protected.”

Court battle

NAF said all permitting authorities have found that the company has sufficient Right, Title and Interest (RTI) to proceed with the permitting process.

Despite that, the company still faces the hurdle of a lawsuit brought against waterfront property owners Richard and Janet Eckrote who have signed a deal allowing NAF to put seawater pipes over what they believe is their intertidal land. The land ownership is disputed by Jeffrey Mabee and Judith Grace, the owners of another property who have been supported by an anti-salmon farming group, Upstream Watch.

“NAF stands with the family that has owned this land for over 70 years and defends their rights - and NAF’s contract with them -against Upstream Watch’s and Mabee/Grace’s attempt to take control of their land in order to stop NAF’s project,” said Naess. 

Counter claim

A Tortious Interference Claim has been filed by NAF as a response to the lawsuit brought against the company by Mabee/Grace.

NAF said despite the authorities in Maine having issued a confirmation of sufficient RTI, the opponents have continued their efforts to challenge this.

Nordic Aquafarms Inc is a subsidiary of Norwegian company Nordic Aquafarms, which owns Norway’s first large-scale land-based salmon farm, Fredrikstad Seafood, near Olso, and Sashimi Royal, which farms yellowtail kingfish in Denmark.

As well as the Belfast project, NAF intends building a 25,000-tonne RAS salmon farm on the Samoa Peninsula in Humboldt County, California.