Nordic Aquafarms continues to meet resistance in the early stages of a planned land-based salmon farm that would be the second-largest in the world.

Complaints from activists that Nordic doesn't have property rights for proposed water intake and discharge pipes that would stretch from the facility into Penobscot Bay have state regulators reviewing applications that they previously deemed complete.

The most recent plan from Nordic Aquafarms calls for three pipes running from the proposed salmon farm site — currently the headquarters of Belfast Water District — to two locations in the bay. Two 30-inch diameter intake pipes would bring water from about a mile out to the salmon farm, while a single 36-inch diameter pipe would return treated wastewater to a location a half-mile from shore.

The latest challenge to the plan comes from Kim Ervin Tucker, a Lincolnville attorney representing Belfast-based Upstream Watch and Maine Lobstering Union, who has filed a formal motion with the state departments of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, seeking to dismiss Nordic's pending permit applications.

DEP is reviewing Nordic's wastewater discharge (MEPDES) permit application; DACF's Bureau of Parks and Land is reviewing a submerged lands lease application for the stretch of the pipes below the low-tide line.

In the complaint, Ervin Tucker charges both DEP and the Bureau of Parks and Lands with deeming Nordic's applications complete without sufficient proof that the company has right, title and interest to the property to be crossed by the pipes, as required by both applications.

Ervin Tucker, who could not be reached for comment by The Journal's early Christmas press time, claims several legal roadblocks that would keep the pipes from ever crossing Route 1, which runs between the proposed salmon farm site and the bay. Ervin Tucker says Nordic hasn't shown that it has a license from the state Department of Transportation to cross the state road.

If the pipes were to clear the highway and reach the easement purchased by Nordic from Richard and Janet Eckrote across that stretch, Ervin Tucker says the pipes would violate local zoning restrictions on accessory structures and side setbacks. The city has changed zoning for Nordic in the past, but the lack of proper rights to make the passage would scrap the current permit applications, according to Ervin Tucker.

At the shore, the pipe would have to cross protected coastal wetlands, for which Ervin Tucker again alleges Nordic does not have a permit. Finally, she states that, within the intertidal zone, the proposed pipe route would trespass on land of property owners in Belfast and Northport, with whom Nordic doesn't have agreements.

The last allegation is based on a Maine law that gives shorefront property owners dominion over everything down to the low-tide line. On those grounds, Ervin Tucker concludes state regulators should reverse their earlier finding that Nordic's applications are complete and return them to the company.

At a public meeting Dec. 17, Ervin Tucker raised these lands rights questions. Moderator Joanna Tourangeau, an attorney from Portland-based law firm Drummond Woodsum, who is working with Nordic Aquafarms, defended the demonstration of right, title and interest in the applications submitted to state regulators.

Ervin Tucker hinted that the question could end up in court. "We'll see what the judges or whomever say about that," she said.

Kevin Martin, an attorney for DEP, wrote in a Dec. 18 email to The Journal that the department is reviewing whether Nordic has established right, title and interest to the necessary land but has not reached any conclusions beyond the initial acceptance of the application.

"However, an applicant must maintain sufficient (right, title and interest) throughout the application process so the status of the Nordic application may change if the department receives evidence sufficient to demonstrate Nordic lacks (right, title and interest)," he said.

Martin added that the status of the application for a submerged lands lease bears on DEP's wastewater discharge permit application, so, conclusions reached by DACF's Bureau of Parks and Lands ultimately could affect DEP's determination.

By The Journal's early Christmas press time, the Bureau of Parks and Lands had not responded to multiple requests for a status update on the submerged lands lease application.

 

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