Legal wrangling continued this week, with attorneys for Nordic Aquafarms requesting that the state Bureau of Parks and Lands reject additional information submitted by opponents of the land-based salmon farm on its submerged lands lease application.

Two groups opposed to the project — Upstream Watch and Maine Lobstering Union — are claiming Nordic cannot prove it has title, right and interest in a piece of property through which it plans to run its intake and outflow pipes for a recirculating aquaculture system.

The Norwegian company hopes to raise salmon in indoor tanks on a piece of property near the Belfast/Northport line but has met resistance from organized groups, as well as individuals, as it moves through the permitting process.

Attorney Joanna Tourangeau argues that evidence submitted by Upstream Watch and MLU falls outside the guidelines set by BPL.

“In addition to being uncivil, none of these submissions are reliable evidence,” she wrote May 31 to Submerged Lands Coordinator Carol DiBello. “All of these submissions fall outside the parameters of supplemental evidence allowed by the Bureau.”

Tourangeau wrote that there are several pages of legal argument included in the submission.

“The Bureau specifically proscribed ‘any remarks or legal argument,’” she said. “As such, these letters and supporting material should be rejected.”

Further, she said, “remarks based on metadata are inaccurate.” On behalf of Upstream Watch and MLU, attorney Kim Ervin Tucker argued maps supplied by Nordic to BPL include layers of data, including one referring to littoral lines called “Colonial if Flats were Conveyed.” Fish farm opponents recently provided BPL with a conservation easement from Jeffrey Mabee and Judith Grace that states the intertidal zone (tidal flats) in front of the Eckrotes’ property belongs to Mabee and Grace, based on interpretations of a 1946 property deed.

Tourangeau said the layers included in the plan are not intended as a comment on existence.

“For example, the ability to remove the high tide line would not indicate that it does not exist or that it was not included with the littoral tie line data set,” she said.

Ervin Tucker pointed to alleged deception by Nordic in its filings based on a Facebook post — she included a screenshot of the post with her comments on behalf of Upstream Watch and MLU — in which the company stated, in part, “ … As far as the intertidal challenge is concerned, we are comfortable. What we find most interesting is that Amy Grant (president of Upstream Watch) and one resident have attempted to claim a conservation easement in the intertidal across two other shoreline properties without speaking to the involved shoreline property owners. They have also in their crusade revealed that some shoreline owners do not own their intertidal, which may be an unpleasant surprise to some owners. 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. 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. …”

Following the Facebook post, Ervin Tucker filed a second comment with BPL relating to Nordic’s “withholding of surveys it commissioned to be done in 2018 and 2019.”

“To preclude our re-submission of this submission is to ignore NAF’s admitted chicanery in withholding its surveys from public view, and the review of interested parties, to conceal the Eckrotes’ and NAF’s lack of (title, right and interest) in the intertidal land,” Ervin Tucker said. “It is our understanding that we were provided leave to re-submit this filing by the above-quoted clarification. Accordingly, NAF’s request to strike this submission should be denied.”

Asked via email May 21 if Nordic has any knowledge of surveys newer than 2012, Nordic Commercial Director Marianne Naess said the Eckrotes own the intertidal area. The Republican Journal asked, “There also are claims of newer surveys that differ from the 2012 survey — does the company have any knowledge of newer surveys, and if so, why not include those in the filings?” Naess responded: “On May 13 Attorney Tucker claimed we withheld the Eckrotes 2012 Good Deeds survey because it proved that the Eckrotes didn’t own the intertidal. We obtained permission from the Eckrotes and provided the 2012 Good Deeds survey, which, as explained in the BPL filings, supports the conclusion that the Eckrotes own the intertidal. Our filings with the BPL discuss all of the information we have about the Eckrotes’ intertidal ownership.”

Naess denies misleading anyone. In a full-page advertisement published May 23 in The Republican Journal, Naess and her husband, Nordic Aquafarms President Erik Heim, wrote, “ … we have acted based on the advice from our legal counsel in Maine. We have not submitted our applications based on vital information being withheld from the public or the authorities — no reasonable company would do that.”

The submerged lands application is in the hands of BPL, which will accept additional public comment once a draft ruling has been made.

As well, Nordic on Oct. 19, 2018, submitted an application for a Maine Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit/Waste Discharge License (MEPDES/WDL) to Maine Department of Environmental Protection that was accepted as complete for processing on Nov. 9, 2018.

On May 17, 2019, Nordic submitted a Site Location of Development Act (SLODA) application, a Natural Resources Protection Act (NRPA) application, a Chapter 115 Air Emission License application, and an addendum to the MEPDES/WDL application.

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