Open the door

Maine can open the door to a new food system or watch through the keyhole as a new industry grows around them.

Maine has a proud tradition of being an agricultural state. We also used to be proud of our salmon. There was a longstanding tradition where the first salmon caught in Maine each year was sent to the White House.

I find the reluctance of Maine to embrace land based fish farming to be at odds with the state's core values. Speaking as someone who has been a farmer in Maine most of my life, Maine has traditionally supported its farmers and recognized how unforgiving and important their work is. How many of us haven’t seen the bumper sticker “No Farms No Food”? Has this simple and accurate observation been completely overlooked in recent conversations?

Maine is the third most food insecure state in the nation. A statistic I am personally ashamed of. While a handful of hostile opponents along the coast attempt to drive fear that a 56-acre farm will somehow destroy the character of an entire region, other Mainers recognize the need to replace the declining paper industry with a new sustainable industry.

Food is a commodity that is not easily replaced with technology like paper. Aquaculture has been steadily growing between 7 percent and 11 percent globally each year. This pace seems impressive, but it is not enough to fill the growing gap between seafood demand and supply. If we do not agree on the need for a new food system, the U.S will continue to be forced to import 90 percent of our seafood each year, and the price of seafood will slowly climb out of reach for most Americans.

The rest of the world is racing to increase their seafood output through rapid adoption of aquaculture. Many countries have formally announced plans to drastically increase aquaculture production with the aim of becoming self-sufficient. Russia has announced plans to increase their annual aquaculture production by 700,000 mt while others have formal goals of self-producing all of their seafood within the next decade.

Back home in Maine, we continue to watch as most of our educated young people leave the state to find work. We all want new industry that is in sync with Maine's deep agricultural roots, and also provides good STEM-based work for the next generation. The need to increase food production and security for the region, while reducing the overall seafood trade deficit is obvious, and the solution is knocking on the door. Until we open that door, we will only be able to glimpse at what might be through the keyhole as more states and countries adopt the industry with open arms and commonsense regulations.

I know I would be proud to once again see a smiling president pose with a fresh salmon from Maine.

David Noyes

Swanville

Editor's note: David Noyes is Nordic Aquafarms' chief technology officer.

Memorable, inspiring

Nine members and friends of the Belfast Indivisible group had lunch and a tour at the Waldo County Technical Center on Jan. 11. What a memorable and inspiring experience it was! Our lunch was delicious, our server was cheerful and attentive, and the four vegetarians among us were very impressed that meatless alternatives were readily offered.

We can’t thank Bonnie Kein enough for spending over an hour showing us around the Tech Center building and telling us how the Maine technical education centers work and what amazing programs they offer to Waldo County high school students.

The WCTC works with Searsport, Mount View and Belfast Area high schools. It offers an impressive range of 13 different academic programs including construction, outdoor leadership, diesel and auto mechanics, computers, graphic design, CNA and EMT certification, horticulture and culinary arts.

A three-course lunch is served every Friday (from October until sometime in the spring) at the center at 1022 Waterville Road. The charge is a flat $9, though tips for the students are welcome. Just call the center at 342-5231 for details and to make a reservation. We encourage everyone to take advantage of this great resource in our community!

Andree Bella, Marcia Cooper, Corliss Davis, Susie Dexter, Connie Hatch, Cris Hughes, Kathy Kreamer, Eileen Wolper

Belfast Indivisible

New 'conservation' proposal doesn’t offer significant change

Much has been made of the news that Nordic Aquafarms has agreed to develop a plan with the Belfast Water District to preserve about 80 acres. But let’s look carefully at this offer, and whether it significantly changes the overall picture of the proposed industrial salmon facility.

– Does it impact pollution of our coastal waters (7.7 million gallons a day of wastewater with a high number of suspended solids and chemical load including pharmaceuticals)?

– Does it address serious concerns re: massive freshwater extraction and water rights?

– Does it mitigate transportation pollution of an estimated additional 4,000 trucks annually on our Midcoast roads?

– Will it reduce its contribution to climate change in relation to a new high-carbon-use industry for electrical power? (Nordic has said its solar panels will only produce 9 percent of its required power).

Unfortunately, the answer to all of the above is “No.”

So what has changed? Unfortunately, very little.

It seems as if this offer makes Nordic look like a “good neighbor.” It feels as if a lot of folks are breathing a sigh of relief. Perhaps we can focus on the 80 acres and forget about inconvenient questions.

But of course we can’t. One can’t bargain with climate change or wish away the legitimate concerns of many residents of Belfast and the surrounding area. One can’t dismiss the significant risks involved in this project (Banks skeptical about financing land-based fish farms: “Must have a better overview of the overall risks” — Salmon Business, Jan. 15).

What will we say to our children and grandchildren? That “saving” 80 acres made it OK to destroy habitat on an adjoining piece of land? That “saving” 80 acres was the best we could do?

I would be ashamed to say that. I know we can do better. If we have the vision and the will, we can choose small, local development over a massive industrial model and steward our land and water more wisely.

Deborah Capwell

Belfast

Share the love

I respectfully voiced my opinion about a political matter online a few months ago, and while the majority of people “liked” what I had to say, a few did not. Rather than offer reasons for why they disagreed with me, they chose instead to call me names and attack my intelligence, character and appearance. These were complete strangers who felt it was OK to treat a fellow human being this way, simply for having an opinion that differed from their own.

I had no intention of responding to any of these attacks, until I came across one written by a veteran. He had resorted to name calling, and accosted me with cruel, unfounded accusations, telling me I had no right to talk about suffering.

I thought about what he said, and felt no hostility toward him whatsoever. Instead, I was overcome with feelings of love and compassion for him, for I sensed a great deal of pain behind his anger.

So I shared that love with him. I let him know that someone heard him. That someone cared. That he wasn’t forgotten. I also shared a bit of my story. I wanted to remind him that I was a person, too, and that while our experiences weren’t the same, perhaps survivors of abuse weren’t so very different from combat vets in the ways we were affected. I wanted to show him that I was deserving of his kindness and compassion, just as he was deserving of mine, and I gave it to him freely and wholeheartedly.

I half expected more cruelty, but instead, I got this: “I thought about what to say, Rebecca, and all words fail. Speechless is the truth. And in saying that, let me also say I’m sorry. Sometimes I get so bent out of shape over the craziest things. But in truth you didn’t deserve what I had written. I’m sorry for what you had to suffer through. I hope my apology can stand as proof that one compassionate person can change others. That person being you. In closing, I hope you can forgive me.”

There are those who use their voice to say uplifting, loving things. Things that unite. Things that raise awareness and plant seeds. Things that build people up and give me hope, reminding me of the beautiful side of humanity. Things that teach me more about who I am and who I want to be. You know who you are. Keep shining your beautiful light.

There are those who use their voice to say cruel, thoughtless things. Things that make my heart hurt. Things that lack kindness, compassion, forgiveness, humility and self-awareness. Things that drive a hard wedge between “self” and “other.” I’m afraid you don’t know who you are. You, too, have taught me more about who I am and who I want to be, and just as importantly, who I don’t want to be. You also have a beautiful light within you, and we can’t wait for you to shine.

Rebecca Tripp

Searsport

What would Martin do?

I'm asking myself on this MLK day, “What would Martin do?” Of course I can't know, but my way of getting as close to the answer as possible is to look closely at what Martin was doing shortly before he was murdered.

Martin was in Memphis, Tennessee, when he was killed. He was marching with the Memphis sanitation workers supporting them for higher pay and better working conditions. He was using his great influence to help improve the lives of working people throughout the United States. So I like to imagine that he would be fighting for working people — fighting for their right to earn a living wage and improve their working conditions.

In April 1967 Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech at Riverside Church in New York. He spoke passionately about his country and his opposition to the war in Vietnam:

“I knew that I could never raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own country.”

Martin knew that we could never find the road to his mountaintop unless our country ended its “militarism.” This is true now more than ever as we have become committed to endless war and maintain a military budget far, far greater than any country in the world. I wonder, if Martin were alive today, would he accept an invitation to visit Bath Iron Works and advocate for building high-speed trains instead of “destroyers"? Or fight for the education and deployment of a robust diplomatic corp working hard for peaceful solutions?

Near the end of his life, he spoke directly to white people like myself who supported his dream but were unwilling to speak out, or unwilling to make commitments to political action because it's too upsetting and inconvenient.

Please, allow yourself to be inspired by the people around you who you admire for their activism. Recently, Maulian Dana, the Penobscots' ambassador, has inspired me as she leads the effort to put an end to the “Indian mascot.” Let's be brave like Martin and step out of our comfort zone and carve some time out of our busy lives to become peace and justice activists. Let's ask ourselves, “What would Martin do?”

David Smith

Belfast

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following letter exceeds the 500-word limit for print but appears in its entirety online:

Nordic Aquafarms project: How local and state governments are failing our communities

A year ago my reaction was favorable when I read that Nordic Aquafarms planned to purchase land from the Belfast Water District to construct a land-based salmon farm, and was going to preserve the popular nature trail on the north side of the Little River.

After all, MBNA and the Front Street Shipyard had been successful beneficial economic developments for Waldo County. When I saw a map, however, that seemed to preclude a direct entry to the trail, I requested a copy of the contract and found that not only was there no written guaranteed right-of-way, there was no provision for the city of Belfast to have any say in a future resale of the property, no provision for an escrow account for restoration of the property when NAF eventually closed — 30 years, according to NAF (and were it not for MBNA, the derelict poultry plants might still be standing in Belfast), and no surety bond required to protect the city or its citizens.

Subsequently others pointed out that the city had failed to follow its own Comprehensive Plan in rezoning the property and had requested an accelerated approval process from the DEP, claiming there was no public opposition to the NAF project. The Belfast City Council and NAF continue to falsely insist that there are only a few noisy radical environmentalists against the fish farm, but if one thing has been abundantly clear during the "informational" public meetings hosted by NAF and the City Council, there is in fact a large group of engaged, knowledgeable citizens who have factually contested almost every purported "benefit," from the projected tax revenues, CO2 reduction, energy consumption, water usage from local aquifers and other environmental impacts

Nothing has highlighted the reasons for growing public concern as much as the proposed pipeline for the discharge of the NAF effluent into Belfast Bay, initially 1.5 miles out into “deep ocean currents,” then reduced to 1 mile, and now but a half-mile or so into only 35 feet of water at mean low tide, across private properties in the littoral zone of both Belfast and Northport and ending within the boundary of the town of Northport only a mile or so from the beaches and swimming dock of the Northport Village of Bayside.

How "clean" and environmentally safe the 7.7-million-gallon-per-day discharge will be for lobsters, humans, aquatic plants, endangered wild Atlantic Salmon, and other living things in and around the bay has been a matter of debate. But what is admitted by NAF is that it will take at least 14 days for the discharge to clear the area at the end of the pipe, meaning that at any one time there will be about 100 million gallons of static effluent present.

Similarly, there has been debate about where the discharge will eventually go, some indicating that the Belfast shore and harbor are at risk at times. There is also concern about the disturbance of mercury in the seabed.

The City Council and NAF claim the salmon farm will be of great economic benefit. The amount, however, has been publicly challenged. The potential negative impacts of diminished property values, resultant reduction in tax revenue and monies lost from a decrease in summer residential use and visitors have not been assessed.

The problem with the debate so far is that the public meetings have not allowed for a balanced and respectful dialogue. NAF, its hired consultants, the Water District and the Belfast City Council all have a vested interest in the project and are thus inherently biased. On the other side, citizens who have reasonable and informed opposing arguments have not been able to effectively present their own credentials and scientific information.

Since NAF has to gain approval from the Maine State Department of Environmental Protection, a public hearing would have been the appropriate venue for the presentation of the best available scientific evidence and opinions, following which the DEP could have made a credible ruling or request further studies. At the very least, public concerns would have been much more effectively addressed and suspicions allayed.

Unfortunately, at the end of December the DEP rejected multiple requests for such a hearing. In doing so, the DEP violated its own rules by incorrectly concluding that the NAF project was wholly within the city of Belfast, would have no impact on Northport or Islesboro, and was not a matter of public concern, all of which are criteria for which the DEP should conduct a public hearing.

Yes, one of the roles of a representative government is to promote the economic well-being of its community; but of even greater importance is to protect its citizens by due diligence, open objective evaluation, and by following its own established rules.

It would be appropriate for the new leadership at the DEP to reconsider a public hearing; and I recommend Northport and Islesboro be allowed and encouraged to become more fully engaged in the process.

Sid Block

Northport