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Army Corps issues sediment testing criteria for Nordic’s pipeline

By Kendra Caruso | Jun 28, 2020
Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website.

Augusta — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a sediment and analysis plan for Nordic Aquafarms to test the location of its pipeline route for its proposed land-based salmon fish farm. Opposers request that testing criteria be made public.

Peter Tischbein, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers senior project manager, said the SAP is part of the agency’s permitting process for Nordic to install its pipeline in the bay. Because the project is proposing to dredge material and replace some of the sediment over the pipes, the test will identify if there is and how much buried mercury may be in the area.

HoltraChem and Mallinckrodt were companies located south of Bangor that dumped chemicals, including mercury, into the Penobscot River for several years resulting in high levels of mercury in Penobscot Bay.

Most of it is buried under sediment where it does not have a negative impact on local wildlife or fishing, but Nordic opposers claim there is mercury in the area. They are concerned that if the company dredges part of the bay near the Little River, the chemical will be released and the state could shut down the area to recreation and fishing.

Tischbein said even if there is mercury in the area, the Army Corps can still approve the permit but will have to work with the company to place provisions on the application that prevent spreading contaminants. Opponents criticize the techniques Nordic proposed in previous BEP meetings, stating that the filter it proposes to use while transporting sediments to Mack Point in Searsport will not catch all sediment or mercury.

Nordic opponent Paul Bernacki sent a letter to Tischbein requesting to see the SAP. He argues that, according to the Clean Water Act, state agencies, intervenors and the public involved in the project have a right to see the plan. He questions the Army Corps motives for requiring those entities to file a Freedom of Information Act request to access the information.

“All along, the only way this project is going to be legitimate is if we force them to do it,” he said.

Tischbein said it is the Army Corps’ policy to require anyone who wants access to the information to file a FOIA request. But Friday, June 26, the Army Corps released the SAP to intervenors and state agencies involved in the project.

He is concerned that people will not accurately read the data when they receive the document. “I suspect that there will be misinterpretation in that, too,” he said.

Previously, Nordic had tested sediments for mercury along an old pipe route and found only trace amounts of the chemical in one of its three tests. Opponents criticize the testing methodology used and that there is no updated testing along the current proposed pipe route.

Bernacki said he was concerned that the Army Corps was stonewalling him to delay releasing the SAP so they can push Nordic’s project through with little public oversight.

“It’s going to be over my dead body that they will fake these permits, circumvent the law and push these through,” he said.

Intervenor Judith Grace and Jeffrey Mabee’s attorney Kim Ervin Tucker filed a FOIA for the document on June 22, she said in an email. She said her clients need to know if the tests are on intertidal land currently in dispute between them and their neighbors Janet and Richard Eckrote who granted an easement to Nordic for its pipeline.

“I need the SAP now,” she said in an email to Tischbein. “I need to know if NAF is being asked to do sediment testing on land my clients own or that my other clients hold under the conservation easement so that I can deal with that with the Superior Court judge who has jurisdiction over those land issues.”

Tischbein said the Army Corps does not have jurisdiction over the intertidal land, only lands submerged under water.

Nordic released a statement in support of the SAP and saying it is willing to comply with the Army Corps' required sediment testing.

Tischbein said he still has to work with the National Marine Fishery Services to develop a plan on how Noridic can minimize negative impacts on the habitat during construction for critical species identified in the area. No Army Corps permits have been issued yet, he said. He said it is unknown when a decision about Nordic’s permit applications with the Army Corps will be made.


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