An illustration of how the Nordic Aquafarms facility may have, or may still, look.

Nordic Aquafarms sues council over decision to reverse land seizure

Legal action is a sign of our commitment, says fish farmer

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The Norwegian company hoping to build a 33,000-tonnes-per-year land-based salmon farm in Belfast, Maine, in the eastern United States, is suing the city’s council after members voted to reverse the seizure of intertidal land required to lay pipes between the farm and the sea.

The City of Belfast, which had previously backed the project, voted to vacate and repeal its eminent domain (seizure) order of the land following a court ruling that Nordic Aquafarms didn’t have the right to lay pipes across the mudflats, which had disputed ownership.

Nordic is now challenging the City’s decision in the Superior Court of Maine.

Creating jobs

In a Facebook post, Nordic Aquafarms Maine said the company was “committed to creating aquaculture jobs and increasing the City of Belfast’s tax revenue significantly each year”.

It said it had donated $8,000-10,00 to community organisations, and hundreds of volunteer hours to Waldo County.

“We are dedicated to Belfast and want to continue bringing other economic benefits to Belfast and the surrounding region by completing the development of its fully permitted on-land aquaculture facility,” wrote Nordic Aquafarms Maine.

“Consistent with this commitment, Nordic filed a lawsuit asking the Maine Superior Court to determine both the validity of the Belfast City Council’s May 7 vote to vacate its 2021 condemnation order and the effect of that order on the easement that the City had granted to Nordic in the meantime. Having the Superior Court determine Nordic’s rights following the Council vote is an important part of the development process, and Nordic is committed to seeing it through.”

Upstream Watch

Upstream Watch, a local group that has opposed the Nordic project since it was announced in 2018, said in a Facebook post that: “Filing a lawsuit against the City of Belfast that will continue to cost the City $$$ is a pretty strange way of showing dedication to this community.”

However, until now Upstream Watch has primarily been the group instigating legal action related to the project, although it was itself sued by Nordic in 2020 as part of a counter claim to an action by opponents of the project.

In February, Upstream Watch offered Nordic and Belfast City Council a settlement that involved buying Nordic’s land for the price the company paid for it, which it said would prevent the “poorly conceived project from ever breaking ground.

'Resolution' offer

“While we have been successful in holding back the project thus far, it could still be years before we reach resolution through the court system. While Upstream Watch believes we will eventually prevail, the organization realises that as long as the Little River property is not permanently protected, this land will be faced with similar proposals that will put Penobscot Bay, the Little River and the Belfast community at risk.

“As a result, Upstream Watch is offering the City and Nordic a resolution that would end all litigation, offer the City a number of economic and financial benefits, permanently protect the land surrounding the Little River and public access to that green space, and allow Nordic to recover some of their costs.”