Opponents of Nordic Aquafarms’ proposed recirculating aquaculture system facility in Belfast, Maine have filed a new objection to the company’s pursuit of a submerged land lease it needs to route inflow and outflow pipes into the nearby bay.
Two organizations, Upstream Watch and the Maine Lobstering Union, jointly submitted a brief last week to the Maine Bureau of Public Lands claiming that Nordic Aquafarms does not have sufficient title, right, or interest to cross parts of the intertidal zone it is currently planning to route the pipes through. Those pipelines are a part of the company’s proposal to build a USD 500 million (EUR 446.8 million) salmon RAS in Belfast, Maine, which has faced intense local opposition to the project.
Nordic currently has an easement across waterfront property owned by Richard and Janet Eckrote that lies between the proposed site of the facility and the Penobscot Bay, where the company plans to both source water and discharge filtered and treated water. In the brief, attorney Kim Ervin Tucker argues that the Eckrotes do not have ownership of the intertidal zone due to the wording of the property’s original deed.
Maine is one of only six states in the U.S. in which coastal property owners own land all the way out to the mean low tide line, as opposed to many other states in which that section of land is owned by the state itself. According to the brief, a deed transferring land between two previous owners in 1946 conveyed that the parcel would only stretch down to the high-water line.
“… the Eckrotes, and their predecessors in interest dating back to 1946 never had an ownership interest in the intertidal land on which the Eckrotes’ upland lot fronts,” states the brief.
In addition, the brief states, that same deed limits the use of the Eckrotes’ property to residential purposes only.
“For these reasons, the Eckrotes cannot grant to NAF [Nordic Aquafarms], or to anyone else, access to Penobscot Bay through the intertidal land between the upland Eckrote parcel and Penobscot Bay – by Easement or conveyance of fee title in their upland lot,” the brief states.
The brief also asserts that the owners of the intertidal property that Nordic is planning to cross is actually owned by Jeffrey Mabee and Judith Grace, who own property two lots over from the Eckrotes, according to Belfast tax maps.
The latest challenge is the second in two months from Upstream Watch and the Maine Lobstering Union, who made earlier made efforts to have the state reject the permit application as inadequate before the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands decided to move forward with processing.
According to the Bangor Daily News Carlo DiBello, the submerged lands coordinator for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, has asked Nordic to submit more documents to the state by 16 May.
“We have asked for Nordic to submit what they have to support their claim that the Eckrotes own the intertidal land,” she said. “We haven’t made any decision at this point. We are waiting to see what other information we get in.”
Marianne Naess, Nordic’s director of operations, has told the paper that they expect the permit will be granted.
“We’re confident that we’ll be granted the permit,” Naess said.
Photo courtesy of Nordic Aquafarms