A call for honest, open, civil discourse

By Erik A. Heim, President, Nordic Aquafarms Inc. | May 23, 2019

I understand that there are different views and ideologies about the proposed salmon farm in Belfast. I understand that nearby residents have legitimate reasons to ask questions and raise potential concerns.

Nordic Aquafarms has engaged in many conversations regarding these concerns at all levels of government and with the public in Maine. Nordic Aquafarms has felt the genuine warmth of Maine hospitality and heated dispute over the facts. We welcome both.

Throughout, our message remains the same: Economic development doesn't need to be at odds with responsible environmental stewardship. We came to Maine — to Belfast — to build a facility that we hope and expect will pave the way forward for aquaculture in Maine.

I remain committed to open dialogue with those who have an honest intent. I am a dual citizen of the U.S. and Norway. I was born in Massachusetts. Both my wife and I were educated in the U.S. We both founded our careers on integrity. I am proud of the company I founded. I look forward to a time when this company will provide challenging and meaningful jobs to Mainers. I look forward to setting new environmental standards in aquaculture here in Maine.

We did not expect an easy road. But we are surprised by the personal and corrosive nature of the attacks on the project. This winter we fought off bills in Augusta aimed at the company by a representative who did not want to meet with us. We looked forward to meeting with the Maine Lobstering Union on two separate occasions. Both times, those meetings were cancelled.

How can honest concerns be addressed and resolved without dialogue?

The latest round of accusations related to the intertidal land ownership in Belfast. Again, Nordic Aquafarms was accused of lying, fraud and perjury. The Free Press authored an article restating these accusations, although its staff knew Nordic Aquafarms’ response to the Bureau of Parks and Lands would be filed later that day. Yet, they chose to print.

According to Mr. Mabee’s letter to the editor published in that same paper (and in The Republican Journal) on the same day, he was convinced by “counsel for Upstream Watch” to grant Upstream Watch a conservation easement over land he hadn’t thought he’d owned for the past 25 years.

We have no indication now, or from any of our experts, that Mr. Mabee and/or Ms. Grace own the intertidal in front of the Eckrotes’ property. No reasonable company would invest in a project without a solid expectation that its rights were legally sufficient. Despite the numerous allegations to the contrary, Nordic Aquafarms is a reasonable business owner.

Beyond this, the impacts of this pipe have been greatly exaggerated. The construction will be in compliance with all required approvals and the pipes will be buried in the intertidal such that they will not be visible. The residual discharge has been vetted by a number of Maine´s leading environmental organizations. Statements about local mercury issues have not been backed up by any local data from opponents. On the contrary, our samples refute these claims. The opposition’s unsubstantiated media claims regarding contamination in Belfast Bay are hurtful to the local seafood industry.

Nordic Aquafarms has submitted its response to the Bureau of Parks and Lands regarding the Submerged Land Lease and its applications to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Applications to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the city of Belfast will be filed soon. The project will be subject to robust review at the local, state and federal levels.

While I will continue to defend our company, and employees, from attacks as necessary, my hope is that there can be a different — more civil — way forward.

 

Comments (8)
Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | May 30, 2019 22:03

Eric......."

25.8% of the population for whom poverty status is determined in Miami, FL (112k out of 435k peoplelive below the poverty line"
So glad you came to Belfast for your so called armageddon???  Really?????  Your ideas coming from an area living further below the poverty line then Belfast?
Maybe you should take a look at your sleepy neighbors as Searsport poverty line.......
19.3% of the population for whom poverty status is determined in SearsportME (216 out of 1.12k peoplelive below the poverty line



Posted by: Eric Schrader | May 29, 2019 19:26

Well Ms. Hill, who is creating huge corporate entities here in our little idyllic town of Belfast.  Tractor Supply? Even Nordic AquaFarm? Even when built out, you would drive by it and not even notice it was there. Here is a simple analogy that can explain this dichotomy. If you are a consuming nation or city with very little to export, your town or country will die. Let's say we are confronted with the Armageddon of all scenarios: the City loses athenaHealth with 900+/- employees, On Process says, hey, we can transport our 200+ jobs anywhere in the world and lastly, Bank of America says some other state just offered us a sweetheart deal to move. Think it can't happen? Talk to Texans that are poaching companies out of California like shooting fish in a barrel. Then what are we left with for an employment center for semi, skilled and highly skilled workers? Reny's, Ocean Job Lot, McCrum Potato factory? This is why you need to diversify your economic base, i.e. remember the eggs in one basket example. Belfast and Waldo County have nearly 25% of their population living at or below the poverty line. Is that something we all should be proud of or do we want to see "rising tides lift all boats". The newbies to the town or the so-called "from away" bring different frames of reference, different experiences, different sophisticated skill sets that bring a transfusion of new ideas. I'm one of them and proud of it. I have the skill set to help put a serious dent in the housing shortage, but since I'm "from away", need not apply. You may say "we don't want this for Belfast". Well, that may be true for you, but just look at what Paul Naron, also "from away" did with the 10 year vacant Mathews Bros. factory in the middle of downtown. He turned it into an incredible hub of social life and activity and if his new project get going, it will be an economic boom to Belfast. Or, you can go the way of downtown Searsport or Stockton Springs, where they roll up the sidewalks at night and nobody notices.



Posted by: Jennifer Hill | May 29, 2019 09:53

Why is it that so many people who moved to this idyllic Maine coastal community from big cities (like Miami) are so desperate to recreate huge corporate mega industries here? The writer here who states, ". . . Tractor Supply to provide an economic shot in the arm that gives us nothing more than a temporary sugar high," displays vastly different values from the people who I know from Waldo County, Maine. When I hear people talk about NAF and when I think about the proposed project, it isn't about "them" versus "us." It's all about "we." Is this right for our area? What are the long-term repercussions? We zone cities for similar kinds of establishments. Why not consider the rural nature of Waldo County when determining if a business is right for the area.



Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | May 28, 2019 22:00

Eric

Maybe there is a tomorrow in Miami, however in Maine "tomorrow" NEVER comes!   It is today!  Even when the next day comes it is not tomorrow but today as tomorrow never comes!



Posted by: Domenic Ruccio | May 28, 2019 15:54

Erik,

Cold comfort though it may be, please know that many of us are shocked and chagrined by the vituperative and dishonest nature of many of the opponents of you project.  Especially after Nordic's laudable efforts to reach out to Belfast with numerous public opportunities to voice their concerns directly to you and your team, not to mention a physical presence downtown to where concerns and questions may be brought.  At those meetings Nordic has been direct and honest in addressing those concerns, frequently after they have been addressed repeatedly.

It is quite sobering for a small community like ours to realize that some of our neighbors appear so ideologically strident as to resort to false and misleading statements - not to mention scare tactics - to turn people against your project.  We tend to think of ourselves, rightly or wrongly, as fairer than that.  I think Nordic has weathered all this with grace and admirable forbearance, but please know that many of us are taken aback by our neighbors actions and bald-faced intransigence.  It was not how we thought of our community.

The vast majority of us are fully in favor of your project and look forward to having Nordic as a corporate neighbor.  Nordic has earned that by its openness and honesty to date.  The very vocal minority who appear willing to throw decency and honesty to the wind to prevent your project from seeing the light of day are as much an embarrassment to most of us as they are an implacable and slightly irrational thorn in your side.  I'm afraid that you have decided to do your project at a time when America has grown alarmingly more strident with one camp or another on any given issue unwilling to listen to any facts that do not support their position, a situation best described as "I know what I know and don't try to confuse me with the facts."

Keep up the good fight.

 

 

 



Posted by: Eric Schrader | May 28, 2019 05:42

One of the little problems in Maine that everyone eventually could die waiting for good things to happen "in the end". In Miami, where I grew up, we had Cuban time: manana or tomorrow. In Maine, there is "Maine time", translated as "Whenever we get around to it". It's called a lack of a sense of urgency. The state motto, "Dirigo" in Latin means I direct or I lead. What are the categories that we leading in? Bad ones that are too many to mention. Mainer's have a way to figure things out? How about looking around the Country to other municipalities that have already solved problems with innovative solutions and NOT re-invent the wheel. Good example is the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) that would give desperately needed help to most municipal budgets. In 2018, nearly 37 million people visited Maine on vacation, so wouldn't it be nice if they pitched in to help with some extra pennies that turn into millions. I know first hand what an extra penny can mean. Would you rather be given one million dollars today or take a penny a day and double it each day for a month. Do the math.



Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | May 27, 2019 21:51

Sorry your glass is half full.  Belfast is Maine and Mainer's have a way of figuring it out no matter what happens in the end.



Posted by: Eric Schrader | May 24, 2019 03:55

Erik, I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you will not find civility coming from the opposition. It's not much different than the circus playing out in Washington, DC over the past several days. In many instances, you are not dealing with rational people. It's not even a NIMBY thing, it more like "my way or the highway". Who is funding the opposition, since last time I checked, legal representation tends to be quite expensive unless it's be offered "pro bono". I ask myself, Self, what is their end game? Their end game is economic stagnation at the expense of the majority of Belfast residents, both working and retired.

What if you folded your tent tomorrow and said who needs this aggravation. There is someone else in town asking the same question. Paul Naron and his fantastic project along the harbor, bringing potentially two new restaurants, expanded marina and other new uses for the old Mathew Bros. building that sat dormant for 10 years. In your case, the City of Belfast supports the AquaFarm. In Pauls' case, not so certain. But Armageddon may be on the horizon in the form of athenaHealth leaving town, On Process being "mobile" and the remnants of B of A being outsourced. What are you left with? A 400,000 sf old MBNA behemoth with a crashing assessment value and dwindling property tax revenue. Will the Aquafarm be able to bail out the City budget? Obviously no, but having that facility in our City with the jobs, ancillary services and what most people forget, a tourist magnet bringing much needed tourist dollars into the area is not going to hurt. Oh, but don't forget, we still might have Tractor Supply to provide an economic shot in the arm that give us nothing more than a temporary sugar high.

 



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