Online-only letter

Aug 22, 2019

Editor's note: The following letter was received after deadline and appears only online at the author's request.

Good questions

Having attended the city of Belfast Planning Board meeting last night (Aug. 19), I first want to thank all the people on the Board for their great time and effort in fulfilling their responsibilities to the people of Belfast. What a huge time consuming task, wading through regulations, requests, opinions and facts, concerning the request by Nordic Aquafarm to build a large industrial RAS salmon facility here! I was surprised that the city does not have an independent lawyer and other technical advisers contracted to help them formulate the questions that should be asked of a new international company looking to open what intends to be one of the world's largest facilities in an exploding field as technical and new as industrial-size aquaculture.

I am taking up the suggestion from last night's meeting to wade through the information that I heard and pick just a few questions that were raised about the technical ability of Nordic to complete this project successfully, and send these on to the Board. They are:

1. What is the ACTUAL experience, with land-based salmon farming — IE. how many full grown salmon have been farmed to maturity successfully by Nordic? I think the scale of the project may be what makes it experimental.

2. Can we get a clear description of the actual waste water system that is so critical to ensuring that the effluent of 7.7 million gallons a day is not harmful to the bay, or aquifer? Who is the designer of this and what is their experience?

3. And what about the software? This project's success will be totally reliant on the computerized system that operates it — what team is designing this? And who will be the responsible party? As a nurse practitioner who has been in the office when the computers go down, and we have absolutely no access to anyone's charts, this is a major concern that I never thought about until it was brought up last night. Fish need lights, heat, feed and cleaning 24 hours a day, no matter what.

4. The patents — does Nordic hold them or are they in contractual agreement with those who do? Also something I know nothing about and seems critical to have someone review this that understands patent law.

5. And finally, is there a surety bond or a specific contract with the city so that in the event the facility has major glitches, or goes bankrupt like several previous ventures, so the local taxpayer does not pay for clean up or an empty facility of this tremendous size?

These were some of the questions raised during the public response part of the meeting that sound to me like good questions to look at.

Meredith Bruskin


Comments (5)
Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Aug 28, 2019 00:50

The bond I mentioned would be only for the build out process.  Bonds are required during the build out process so if investors pull out before the physical plant is completed that the bond would make the site right.  Think of an insurance policy for the Citizens of Belfast should NAF decides to pull up stakes and put investments into the west coast venture and walk away from a half built construction site.  The bond is negated when the building is up and running.  Requiring bonds for projects this size is not uncommon.

Posted by: John E Marshall | Aug 26, 2019 15:00

The function of the Belfast Planning Board is only to assure compliance with what is set forth in the City's Comprehensive Plan: Is it a permitted use for that parcel? Does it conform to setback including screening? Are septic/sewer and water connections adequate. Are there sufficient parking spaces? It is not the responsibility of the Board to review business plans, technical or financial details of the applicant or their experience. The City Planning and Code Enforcement  Office has done a great job over the years. I was Chair for 9 years during which MBNA came to Belfast. I can't imagine the we would have reviewed MBNA's computer sytems, financial stability, or staffing plans or whether the telephone system was adequate. To my sorrow, but also relief because it came after my time, the City did agree to include a downtown architectural design review (Pretty Police).

Posted by: Eric Schrader | Aug 23, 2019 21:05

Hey Ralph, what are you smoking? Your response is all over the map. I've dealt with all kinds of governmental entities the likes that you cannot comprehend. Amount of concrete poured? What does that mean? You sound like the DemoRats hoping for a recession that will harm millions of people so that Sleepy Joe Biden can get the nomination. How are the taxpayers obligated "on the downside" is this project fails. If it fails, it fails. Maybe we can convert the facility into a hockey rink or grow pot. For your information, you don't have to a historian to know that NAF's use of water will be a minimum of 150 million gallons up to 260 million gallons a year MAX, yet the chicken and sardine plants used up to 600 million gallons per year before there was any State or Federal EPA. Speaking of Poland Springs, their water sucks and is overpriced. Bought one bottle at Belfast Variety and had a metallic taste. Maybe they got it from the abandoned wells in Stockton Springs. So Ralph, your train has left the station and you're left holding the bag to figure out how to diversify the economic base of Belfast other than more McCrum's of the world. Maybe you can join Ellie Daniels and Donna Broderick in Searsmont and start an organic "fruitcake" farm.

Posted by: Ralph Stanley | Aug 23, 2019 17:35

The State Mr. Schrader, will be ill equipped to deal with a project once it unfolds. There is not the time or the money for them to provide a police watch over this once it has been given a green light. I have no idea of the amount of concrete poured for these structures but it will be substantial. Build out and failure, what will be the future use? Where do you get in your mind that the State will be all over this project given a screw up. Taxpayers will be obligated on the downside of a failed project no different than what is now being experienced by the loss of MBNA and BOA. Ken Hall has asked significant questions that require more than nuanced answers. Perpetuity by Nordic is a 30 year + build out all said and done. They are already looking a reservoir drawdowns as their well capacity my not provide. How long have you been here? Were you here when the broiler industry controlled the Bay? Do you know of the history of that debacle? No idea what you know as you seem to lack experience in state and local gov't and how it works. You can offer me something I may or may not know at this point, but I've been in this thing far longer than your experience in building houses . You have begun to sound like a shill for this project as has your Dirk Faegre and his little mind. Educate yourself to the realities of what this project represents given the realities of present state government. Good to see Brownfield in the Denmark area of Maine has rejected any further extraction of groundwater for Poland Spring Bottling Co. They have had enough. Praise those folks for refusing to knuckle under to the international forces placed upon them. Give me a go with your gained knowledge of the subject and let's see where it goes. You comment as you must but most belongs on Facebook in the ether.

Posted by: Eric Schrader | Aug 23, 2019 04:21

These are all legitimate questions that should be answered except # 5 about a surety bond. There are no guarantees that a "for profit" business will be in business into perpetuity so I'm not sure what you mean about major glitches. The State and all their alphabet agencies are going to be all over NAF to ensure compliance with previously approved permits and operations. I also don't see how a local taxpayer would be obligated to pay for a "clean up" or an empty facility. Heck, Mathews Bros. factory downtown was vacant for 10 years and nobody cared until Paul Naron came along with his vision. The growing Aquaculture industry in Maine could find many uses in the future if salmon don't work out.

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