An illustration of Nordic's planned salmon RAS facility in Belfast, Maine. Image: Nordic Aquafarms.

US judge to rule on Nordic land rights case

A three-day court case to determine who owns a strip of intertidal land that an on-land salmon farmer wants to use to access the sea has concluded, but the result won’t be known for weeks.

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The access is important for Nordic Aquafarms Inc., which plans to build a 33,000-tonnes-per-year recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) facility in Belfast, Maine, on the US eastern seaboard.

The Bangor Daily News reported that although evidence has now been heard, lawyers will not file their closing arguments until Thursday, July 15. After that, they will have 10 days to form a response to the other side’s arguments and must then wait for Waldo County Superior Court Justice Robert Murray to make his judgement.

Intertidal zone

In the case, plaintiffs Jeffrey Mabee, Judith Grace and Friends of the Harriet L Hartley Conservation Area tried to show that defendants Nordic Aquafarms and Richard and Janet Eckrote don’t have the right to access the intertidal zone next to the Eckrotes’ house on Northport Avenue.  

The Eckrotes say they do and granted an easement to Nordic to cross it. Ownership of the mudflat is important because it’s where Nordic Aquafarms intends to bury pipes to funnel water to and from Penobscot Bay.

Nordic Aquafarms first announced plans to build the salmon farm in January 2018. It has undergone a long permitting process and has been opposed some residents in the town, although others support the development.

The Norwegian-owned, US-registered company also plans a 33,000-tonne salmon RAS on the Samoa Peninsula at Humboldt County, northern California, announced in late 2019.

Maine first

Faster permitting progress in California led Nordic to delay a decision on which facility to build first, but last month it announced that Belfast would be given priority.

“Our RAS projects in Maine and California have been in a permitting race on a first come-first build basis,” Nordic said in a social media post.

“We are happy to announce that Maine will go first, while California in the future will benefit from the development work in Maine. Final engineering is starting up in Maine as we head into summer.”

Nordic’s parent company, Nordic Aquafarms Group AS, owns on-land yellowtail kingfish producer Sashimi Royal and its associated kingfish hatchery Maximus, both in Denmark, and Fredrikstad Seafoods, an on-land salmon producer in south-east Norway.