In a lengthy letter May 13, Upstream Watch and Maine Lobstering Union accuse Nordic Aquafarms of intentionally concealing information from the public, the city and state agencies to secure permits for its planned land-based aquaculture facility.

However, Nordic Aquafarms Commercial Director Marianne Naess disputes those accusations.

"The claim that we have intentionally misled the public is not true," Naess wrote in an email to The Republican Journal May 14. "This is just another attempt by Kim Tucker, Upstream Watch and MLU to stop the project. We are proceeding with the permit applications and will respond to the BPL on its request by the May 16th deadline."

The public comment period to the Bureau of Parks and Lands closed May 8, according to a letter from Submerged Lands Coordinator Carol DiBello responding to attorney Kim Ervin Tucker, who authored the letter on behalf of Upstream Watch and Maine Lobstering Union.

DiBello noted there will be additional opportunities for comment on the application for 30 days, once the preliminary findings and decision are issued. 

Nordic Aquafarms has been met with a vocal resistance composed of individuals and organized groups since it announced plans to construct a land-based salmon farm on a Route 1 parcel of land near the Northport line. Objections have ranged from environmental impacts on the bay and wildlife to the lessened enjoyment of the property owned by Belfast Water District and under contract to Nordic.

With regard to the bay, opponents have been critical of plans to discharge large amounts of water daily. They have speculated about contaminants such as fish feces and chemicals, and expressed concern about mercury disturbance during construction.

Ownership of existing hiking trails will be transferred to the city, which will pay the water district for a 250-foot-wide strip of land that will remain accessible to the public. Regular users of the trails argue the large structure will detract from the wooded area along Little River.

In her most recent letter to BPL, Ervin Tucker wrote that a May 8 Facebook post by a representative of Nordic “contains a damning admission” about its title, right and interest in and to a portion of intertidal land where it intends to place intake and outflow pipes to the facility.

In the Facebook post, Nordic describes opponents' efforts as a “crusade.”

“We withheld our surveys when we became aware of this situation some months back — it was not our role to reveal such sensitive information to the community and owners,” the post states. “Some of these shoreline owners might have wanted to acquire rights to their intertidal, while Upstream Watch is now trying to take control of them.”

Earlier this month, Ervin Tucker — again on behalf of Upstream Watch and Maine Lobstering Union — filed a second letter with Maine’s Bureau of Parks and Lands opposing the project. In that letter, she bought up concerns about Nordic’s claims to the intertidal land owned by the Eckrotes and said the intertidal land had been preserved in perpetuity though a deed from Harriet Hartley in 1946 to Fred Poor. Ervin Tucker writes that the lot was sold “ … with the understanding it is to be used for residential purposes only, that no businesses for profit are to be conducted there unless agreed to by Harriet L. Hartely, her heirs or assigns.” Further, the attorney states, “Since Nordic is in business to make a profit, it has no right to use the Eckrote property.”

The current owners of the Hartley-Poor property are Jeffrey Mabee and Judith Grace. In its package submitted to BPL, Upstream Watch included a survey by Donald Richards dated April 24. A letter accompanying the survey states: “The Eckrote’s predecessor in title did not acquire the shore and the flats adjoining their property, they are included in the deed to Mabee and Grace, and there is a restriction on the Eckrotes property from a previous deed which prohibits commercial use.” Mabee and Grace have since granted a conservation easement to Upstream Watch for the intertial land from the Little River to the north side of the Eckrote lot.

Ervin Tucker points to the Facebook post by Nordic as evidence the company is misleading the public.

“In other words, Nordic has known for months that the Eckrotes did not own the intertidal land on which their lot fronts, and as a result, Nordic lacks and could never acquire any interest in the intertidal land sufficient to constitute to TRI required to file an application for a submerged lands lease,” she wrote. “However, Nordic intentionally withheld this information (and the surveys demonstrating this fact) from the state and the public. … Instead, Nordic, their counsel and their agents have intentionally misrepresented Nordic’s administrative standing to obtain permits over land in which Nordic and their agents knew they had no title, right or interest, both to state agencies and the public.

“Nordic’s Facebook revelation demonstrates that Nordic, and the agents and counsel assisting Nordic, have shirked their obligation to exercise candor toward the Maine agencies responsible for considering their lease and permit applications, as well as to the people of Belfast and Northport, Maine.”

Nordic, in its Facebook post, concluded, “We on the other hand feel no need to engage in that media crusade. We are sticking to our permitting plans, and feel no need to inform them (Upstream Watch) about our position.”


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