DEP backtracks on Nordic application, asks for proof of land rights

By Ethan Andrews | Jan 30, 2019
Photo by: Ethan Andrews Little River estuary at low tide, near the planned location of water pipes for the proposed Nordic Aquafarms facility. Questions about land rights in the intertidal zone have thrown a wrench in the permitting process.

Augusta — The Department of Environmental Protection is taking seriously claims by opponents of the proposed Nordic Aquafarms facility that the salmon farm's water pipes would cross private property in the intertidal zone.

In a Jan. 22 letter, Brian Kavanah, acting co-director of DEP's Bureau of Water Quality, told Nordic to submit supporting materials for its claim of rights to use land that would be crossed by the salmon farm's two seawater intake pipes and one wastewater discharge pipe.

"In light of recently received evidence that the department has determined to be credible, the department is requesting further information," Kavanah wrote to Nordic's attorney Joanna Tourangeau. He went on to request the survey used to establish Nordic's claim of right, title and interest to the intertidal land that would be crossed by the pipes.

Additionally, Kavanah asked for documentation that Nordic has permission run the pipe under Route 1.

The requests represent a change of tone from DEP, which previously accepted Nordic's application as complete.

Nordic has an easement across the upland property owned by Richard and Janet Eckrote that lies between the proposed fish farm site and Penobscot Bay, but ownership of the area between the high- and low-tide marks — and now the Route 1 crossing — is in dispute.

In Maine, coastal property ownership extends to the low-tide line. However, most deeds, including the Eckrotes' and those of properties on either side, refer to either the high-water mark or the shore, a review by The Republican Journal found.

Opponents contend that the proposed pipe route crosses onto at least one neighboring lot within the intertidal zone and may extend over the town line into Northport. The latter point would make the project eligible for review by the state Board of Environmental Protection, a step that opponents have called for, but which was denied in December by acting DEP Commissioner Melanie Loyzim.

In reviewing materials submitted by commenters, Kavanah wrote, DEP "has determined that there is evidence that at least some portions of the proposed project, including parts of the outfall pipe and the ultimate outfall location, are located within the municipal boundaries of Northport, and are not entirely within Belfast as asserted in the application."

Kavanah gave Nordic until Wednesday, Feb. 6, to provide the supporting documents.

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