Although our media presence has been somewhat quiet, we are working remotely, utilizing opportunities for online meetings like many of you, and seeing the new perspectives of our coworkers' home offices and living rooms.

So, where are we in our process now?

The Board of Environmental Protection hearings concluded in February and final testimonies have been submitted by various parties. The Department of Marine Resources submitted its recommendations regarding the pipeline excavation process, barge route, and potential impacts to fisheries. These included equipment recommendations, appropriate marking for navigational safety, and outreach by contractors via 30-day advance written notice. More details can be found at DMR recognized the concern for general loss of fishing area, although noting that the pipeline area was not typical for lobster landings compared to other areas of the bay.

The remaining steps forward were set forth in a recent procedural order by the presiding officer and have been modified to assist some parties responding to their own challenges during these times. BEP will proceed with meetings remotely, with a deliberative session in May. They are still moving forward just as we are, despite the challenging adjustments we have all been making.

Twice in March, the attorney representing intervenors opposed to Nordic’s project moved to delay or restart the proceedings. The same motion had also been presented in February and as such, BEP indicated per a previous procedural order that the decision remains, and those motions were denied.

“The Board recognizes that the COVID-19 public health emergency presents a number of challenges to continuation of government proceedings; however, the Board has a statutory responsibility to conduct business, which includes the processing of applications, to the extent possible,” BEP said.

At this point, it seems prudent to share additional actions dealt out by opposing parties:

Considering certain emails that were sent in, the BEP reminded intervenors to remain respectful and professional in tone. Folks had been encouraged by an intervenor to inundate BEP with letters. Those letters indicated concern that Nordic was disregarding the current public health crisis and pressuring the board to continue (BEP clarified this was not the case), and other letters argued that our applications should be dismissed. The board addressed this by stating, “As with other applications pending before the Department as a whole, application and record review is ongoing during this period and can be done remotely by staff and Board members in accordance with public health guidelines.”

A recently floated opinion was that our applications are incomplete. While our application has gone through several iterations over the course of the permitting process, adjustments per regulatory agency requests are normal. The applications submitted by Nordic Aquafarms have been and are still considered complete.

Nordic Aquafarms has been patiently moving through this process for many months and we will continue forward, complying with what BEP sets forth.

We appreciate the continued support from the city of Belfast. Our city manager, planner, economic development director and councilors are forward-thinking advocates for responsible growth and have done good work. The changes in Belfast in the past couple of decades show that. If they are seeing Nordic as part of a prosperous future for Belfast, then we are looking forward to being part of the effort. The citizen support has also been very much appreciated. The messages we receive, the lawn signs that are out there, and even the decorative fish being knitted — this community is worth its weight in gold.

We care deeply about our staff and our community, and this has been a challenging time for all of us. We will get through this. We are looking forward to seeing everyone at the fairs and festivals this summer, and to that end, let's all stay home, be safe and flatten that curve.

Jacki Cassida is community liaison for Nordic Aquafarms.