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Intertidal intrigue

By Stephanie Grinnell | May 22, 2019
Photo by: Stephanie Grinnell Rights to this intertidal land are being claimed by Nordic Aquafarms as well as Jeffrey Mabee and Judith Grace, who have granted a conservation easement to Upstream Watch.

Belfast — Six months ago, things might have been different.

Jeffrey Mabee and Judith Grace, owners of 290 Northport Ave. since 1991, initially thought the proposal by Nordic Aquafarms to build a land-based salmon farm directly across from their property could be a viable and sustainable solution for feeding the planet. However, after multiple changes to the plans for the facility, their initial enthusiasm waned.

“I was starting to feel angrier and angrier about the changes,” Mabee said, looking out over the bay in front of the property where the company hopes to place intake and outflow pipes. “I really get it now — this type of operation isn’t right for the planet.”

The couple last month granted a conservation easement over the intertidal area in front of their home as well as two neighbors’ homes to Upstream Watch. The group performed a title search of the properties and claims, based on a 1946 deed, the intertidal area not only belongs to Mabee and Grace but also is restricted to non-commercial use. The new conservation easement furthers its protection and states the protected property — the intertidal zone — “shall remain in its natural condition forever.”

Grace said they moved quickly to put the property into conservation.

“I really feel like we’re doing this for our children, our grandchildren,” Mabee said, adding he feels strongly about decreasing his own carbon footprint as well as protecting the environment. “It was an act of trust. A combination of passion and anger.”

Both said they were taken by surprise to learn after more than 25 years that they could claim the intertidal area as their own.

The couple say they feel attacked by Nordic based on statements its Commercial Director Marianne Naess made about their failing to reach out to neighbors before granting an easement.

“The truth was, we did talk to our neighbors,” Grace said. “I believe they (Eckrotes) did think it (the intertidal area) was theirs.”

Walking along the shoreline littered with broken shells and seaweed, Mabee pointed out birds — mergansers are his favorite — and common areas of seal sightings. Boating last summer, he said he saw alewives in the bay that had been polluted by industry decades ago.

“This bay is really taking a long time to recover,” he said.

The new salmon farm could be a step backward in that recovery, Mabee said, because of the unknowns about what the farmed salmon will consume and eliminate as well as the potential disturbance of mercury on the bay floor.

“I might feel different if I felt like they were going to be good neighbors,” he said. “I just don’t trust them (Nordic). It’s unfortunate but it’s true — just too many changes.”

Back in the fall, Mabee and Grace, as well as other neighbors, had discussions with Nordic about their properties. At the time, Mabee said, the couple had been trying to sell the home and did not want to add a Nordic easement restriction to the process. Naess confirmed the talks.

“There was discussion with them, as with other owners on that side of Route 1, regarding the potential use or purchase of property,” Naess said in an email to The Journal. “We are required by the Maine DEP to look at the viability of all available alternatives.”

The company remains confident, despite the conservation easement to Upstream Watch, that it has sufficient proof of title, right and interest to cross the Eckrote property and be granted a submerged lands lease by the state Bureau of Parks and Lands.

“We knew nothing about the Mabee/Grace claims until the opposition recorded a conservation easement that includes the intertidal in front of the Eckrotes,” Naess said. “As discussed in his letter filed with the BPL, Mr. Dorsky disagreed with the Upstream Watch surveyor’s conclusions about the Mabee/Grace ownership. The information we had from our surveyor is included in the filings with the BPL and fully addresses the issue of right, title and interest.”

Dorsky, in his letter to BPL, said the “Colonial Method” should be applied when considering the deeds.

“When the description fails to clearly describe the boundaries of the flats being conveyed, Maine courts have long held that the method for determining those limits, or the direction of the property line from high to low water, is the Colonial Method,” Dorsky said, noting some of the deeds related to the Nordic application use an abutters description instead, which relies on landmarks such as abutting owners.

He acknowledges that Mabee and Grace do own the intertidal lands in front of the directly neighboring (Theyes) property based on their deed, but not the area in front of the Eckrote property. Naess said the company has provided the proof requested by BPL to support title, right and interest in the Eckrote property.

“We obtained permission from the Eckrotes and provided the 2012 Good Deeds survey, which, as explained in the BPL filings, supports the conclusion that the Eckrotes own the intertidal,” she said.




The Eckrote and Theye properties are bounded by a stream, foreground, that discharges into the bay. (Photo by: Stephanie Grinnell)
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Comments (3)
Posted by: Eric Schrader | May 23, 2019 21:50

Hey Ken, you might want to run spell check before you hit the send button.

Posted by: Kevin Riley | May 23, 2019 06:44

Since they have applied for 501(c)(3) status all funding soucces must be provided and in the puplic domain.
Or you could just ask.

Posted by: Eric Schrader | May 23, 2019 04:40

I just wonder who is funding Upstream Watch. Unless there is total donation of time and services, aka "pro bono", I hope George Soros is not behind these efforts to "monkey wrench" the project. We need salmon, we love salmon, we need a low carbon footprint salmon.

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