The state Bureau of Parks and Lands has ruled that Nordic Aquafarms has “demonstrated sufficient RTI  (title, right and interest) in the upland property adjacent to the proposed submerged lands lease area for the Bureau to process the lease application.”

According to the July 16 preliminary findings and decision signed by Director Andrew Cutko, a “Submerged Lands lease No. 2141-L-48 and Submerged Lands Dredging Lease No. 05-21DL will be granted to Nordic Aquafarms Inc., after the Bureau receives a recorded easement instrument conveying rights to the upland, including the intertidal land, that the application proposes to utilize for the proposed pipes.”

Nordic Aquafarms is going through state and local permitting to build a large land-based salmon farm on property just off Route 1 in Belfast. Neighbors of the property and opponents claim the intertidal land — and an accompanying conservation easement held by Upstream Watch — is owned by Jeffrey Mabee and Judith Grace.

BPL acknowledges “that there are competing claims of title to the intertidal land in front of the Eckrotes’ property. The Bureau, however, lacks the authority to resolve competing title claims; resolution of such claims is a function of the courts.”

The Eckrotes have granted an easement to Nordic to cross their property and tidal area with intake and discharge pipes. Mabee and Grace this week filed a lawsuit against Nordic seeking to block its crossing of the intertidal lands in front of the Eckrotes' property.

The preliminary findings from BPL note that if title, right and interest in a property is lost, the submerged lands lease "shall be invalid and all leasehold … interest in the submerged lands shall be extinguished."

Cutko writes about shorefront property owners objecting that the pipes crossing littoral zones as well, but states the buried pipes will “not unreasonably impair other property owners’ ability to construct docking structures within their littoral zones or access their properties from the water. Therefore, the Bureau is not requiring a letter of no objection from other property owners whose littoral lines the pipes would cross.”

Public comment will be accepted on the preliminary findings until Friday, Aug. 16, after which a final findings and decision will be issued.

Submerged Lands Coordinator Carol DiBello said in a letter to interested parties, “Unless the Bureau’s conclusions are significantly altered, the submerged lands lease will be granted.”

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