Nordic Aquafarms responds to legal challenge, asserts right to permits

Published on
May 17, 2019

Nordic Aquafarms responded on 16 May to opponents of its planned salmon farm in Belfast, Maine, U.S.A., who challenged a submerged land lease the company need to route its inflow and outflow pipes into the nearby Penobscot Bay. 

Two organizations, Upstream Watch and the Maine Lobstering Union, submitted a brief in early May that asserted Nordic does not have sufficient title, right, or interest to cross a section of tidal flats the company is planning to route its pipes through. Those pipelines are piece of the USD 500 million (EUR 447 million) salmon recirculating aquaculture system that the company plans to construct in Belfast.

The opponents claimed that the language of a deed in 1946 indicates that the property they plan to cross – which Nordic claims is owned by Richard and Janet Eckrote – was never actually deeded to the new property owners and actually belongs to property owners to the south. The opponents also claimed that the project has no right to cross nearby Route 1 – a public road in between the project and the bay – and that an existing condition in the 1946 deed prevents any commercial use of the property. 

Nordic Aquafarms has countered all three arguments, in an additional filing with the Maine Bureau of Public Lands. 

“Nordic Aquafarms' filings with the BPL conclude that Nordic Aquafarms has right, title, and interest sufficient for the BPL to issue a submerged lands lease,” the company wrote. “Nordic Aquafarms remains confident in its position and is moving forward with the permitting process.”

The company indicates that it has a right to cross Route 1 thanks to the City of Belfast issuing a conditional permit to allow the construction of a pipe across the road. The company has also acquired release deeds from the heirs of the Eckrotes’ original property owners, who created the deed restrictions in 1946, clearing it from the requirement that all uses must be residential. 

The low tide flat ownership was also argued in Nordic’s favor by Gartley & Dorsky Engineering and Surveying, which cited existing state law in its argument that the Eckrotes own the land between the mean high- and low-tide marks. 

“It is common for deeds conveying land along the shore, even when the language in the decryption clearly includes the flats, to not specify what portion of the flats is being conveyed,” the company’s letter said. “When the description fails to clearly describe the boundaries of the flats being conveyed, Maine courts have long held that the method for determining those limits, or the direction of the property line from high to low water, is the Colonial Method.”

The Colonial Method, according to Gartley & Dorsky, would create another boundary line across the flats, granting the section of land that Nordic plans to cross to the Eckrotes, which in turn would grant Nordic sufficient title, right, and interest to the property. 

Even without the language of the deed, Gartley & Dorsky point out that the Eckrote family has had long-standing structures indicating use of the tidal flats for decades, which would open up that property to a potential adverse possession claim. 

“There are two sets of steps leading to the shore from the upland near the house,” the letter states. “One set is a combination of stone and wood. The other is a set of stone steps. Both sets of steps appear to have been there a long time.”

Nordic took the opportunity to again state that the company is open to resident’s concerns, and that the company is committed “to an open and transparent process.”

“We renew our invitation to those with questions or concerns about the project to call or come by our offices any time,” Nordic said. “Our door is always open to open communication and honest disagreement."

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