Future of Nordic Aquafarms' Maine RAS in doubt following eminent domain decision reversal

A rendering of what the Nordic Aquafarms project in Belfast, Maine would look like when complete.
Nordic Aquafarms' plans for a recirculating aquaculture system in Belfast, Maine have hit another setback, six years after the project was first announced | Photo courtesy of Nordic Aquafarms
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Nordic Aquafarms’ planned salmon recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) farm in Belfast, Maine, U.S.A. is facing an uncertain future after the city’s council voted to end its last avenue to gain access to key property needed for placement of its inflow and outflow pipes. 

The Belfast City Council voted 4-1 to vacate its 12 August 2021 condemnation order for Nordic Aquafarms – a move that reverses its decision to use eminent domain to take ownership of crucial intertidal land the project needed.

The decision follows Nordic’s loss of a Maine Supreme Judicial Court case in February 2023, which found the company did not have rights to the piece of intertidal land in question. The court determined that the plaintiffs in the case, Jeffrey R. Mabee and Judith B. Grace, were correct in their original assertion they are the owners of the intertidal land.

Nordic Aquafarms first announced its plans to build a large salmon RAS in 2018, with a tentative plan to begin construction in 2019. Since then, a series of lawsuits and appeals filed by local residents have kept the company from beginning construction.

Those opponents celebrated the council’s latest decision, calling it beginning of the end of Nordic Aquafarms' plans for Belfast. 

“Tonight’s vote is a body blow to the fish-raising factory proposed by Nordic Aquafarms,” The Friends of Harriet L. Hartley Conservation Area said in a release. “Nordic needed access to the intertidal lands of Mabee and Grace for the intake and discharge pipes to its facility. No intertidal land; no pipelines. No pipelines; no plant.”

The Harriet L. Hartley ConservationAarea was founded by opponents of the project, and encompasses the intertidal land that Nordic Aquafarms was trying to use for its project. It is named after the former property owner, who conveyed portions of the land to new owners in 1946.

Nordic Aquafarms said in a press release it was “very disappointed” in the decision and was “blindsided” by the topic being placed on the city council’s agenda. 

“Nordic has been waiting for the city to complete their actions on eminent domain as requested from the law court and thought they had decided on a plan to first determine the boundary line between Belfast and Northport,” the company said.

The company said the order is yet to be written and the final vote on the subject will come in early May, and Nordic Aquafarms CEO Brenda Chandler said the company is evaluating its options.

“We are considering our options and saddened by the opinions voiced by several council members, this after the company has made a significant investment in the Belfast project,” she said. “The city council simply seems to want to pass on the opportunity for jobs, economic development, and the overall benefits the farm would bring to the city of Belfast.”  

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