Letters Nov. 21

Nov 19, 2019

City should cut its losses

 

It’s been two years since Nordic Aquafarms came to town. To review:

 

Nordic has not secured even one of the many state and federal permits required to break ground. Nordic underestimated the rigor of the permitting process and has fumbled it badly with missed application deadlines, insufficient paperwork, errors and other delays.

 

Nordic has never harvested a market-ready salmon at its tiny (6,000 tons) Norwegian facility (or anywhere else in the world). Major construction problems delayed the startup.

 

Its current application rests on being able to build outflow pipes on shoreland property that has no legal right to. In the courts now, the issue could take as long as two years to settle.

 

Nordic said it would break ground in spring 2018, then fall 2018, then 2019, now spring 2020. If past performance is an indication of future success, this is not encouraging.

 

According to Erik Heim, Nordic holds $70 million for a $500 million project. It does not even have enough to pull off Phase 1. Obviously, investors are not beating down its doors.

 

In its Planning Board application, Nordic admits there is not enough water in the Little River watershed for its uses as well as local homeowners’, this despite its original claims that there was more than enough water. This is based on Nordic’s own test wells (one had saltwater intrusion) and household use monitoring. Now it wants to draw down the reservoir itself and tap into the Goose River city water supply, which also supposedly has plenty of water.

 

Nordic has learned that the soil on the property is not stable enough to support its tanks. It’s now proposing to replace 215,000 cubic yards of soil (322,500 tons) that will be transported in 21,500 truckloads.

 

The city has devoted tens of thousands of staff hours to this project at taxpayer expense. It has spent another six figures to grease the skids for this proposal. (Imagine if the city had devoted that much resource to existing Belfast businesses who wanted to expand and create jobs!) The city is requiring no financial guarantees or bonding from Nordic in case of a problem, leaving itself and Belfast taxpayers exposed to financial injury.

 

How long do we have to put up with this fiasco? If Nordic ever secures its permits, we will be looking at a three- to five-year construction phase (assuming no delays) followed by a more than two-year grow-out period for the salmon (assuming no technical or biological problems). The city should cut its losses and move on.

 

Linda Buckmaster

Belfast

 

Could have refused award

 

So the Chamber of Commerce allowed Nordic Aquafarms Inc. to sponsor the "Hometown Heritage Award" and the Belfast Co-op accepted that award.

Nordic stands poised, if they get their way, to destroy the heritage of our beautiful Penobscot Bay. Seems to me Nordic could care less about our hometown heritage; they came here to make money, pure and simple. That's also why they incorporated in Delaware, because that will afford them bigger profits.

While I understand the Belfast Co-op would like to stay neutral on the Nordic controversy, they could have refused the award based on who sponsored it. Too bad.

Jamila Levasseur

Waldo

Serious discharge concerns

The Belfast Planning Board hearings and the Board of Environmental Protection permitting hearings for Nordic Aquafarms' proposed project are underway. Two issues rise to the highest level of concern for the Planning Board, the BEP, and the intervenors who are attending. Those are water use and discharge.

In their Discharge Permit Application, Nordic anticipates a daily outflow of 7.7 million gallons of brackish water into the bay. The water would be two-thirds salt, one-third fresh, and range from 3 to 12 degrees warmer than the receiving water. The mouth of the outflow pipe would be two-thirds of a mile out, in 32 feet of water, directly in line with Bayside Village and Lincolnville Beach.

In Nordic’s dispersal modeling, they estimate it takes two weeks on average for discharge to move out of the bay to deep ocean currents. This means there could be in excess of 1 billion gallons of discharge collecting near the outflow at any given time.

Nordic expects their filtration to remove 99% of particulate matter and 86% of soluble nitrogen. However, their anticipated particulate density after filtration is higher than what we currently have in the bay.

The 14% of soluble nitrogen that they cannot filter amounts to 1,600 pounds per day. On an average day, the Belfast Water Treatment plant discharges between 100 and 130 pounds of soluble nitrogen. Nordic would be discharging 12 to 16 times more nitrogen than the city of Belfast.

Nordic also anticipates discharging 6 pounds of phosphorous daily. Although I don’t have a comparison for this, phosphorous is typically measured in grams or ounces, not pounds. It has serious negative impacts on water quality.

Putting aside discussions about reduction of taxes and numbers of jobs, it seems clear that many of us, regulators included, share serious concerns about the proposed Nordic Aquafarms discharge.

Ellie Daniels

Belfast

Thanks to Reentry residents

The Sandy Point Community Club recently served its annual Harvest Supper. The members of the club cooked up a wonderful meal while members of the local community donated over 25 pies of all kinds for dessert.

For the second year in a row we used produce donated by the Maine Coastal Reentry Center in Belfast. Residents of the center grow a large amount of squash, potatoes, carrots and other crops that they use for their center, but they generously donate surplus to the community and to nonprofit organizations.

Along with the produce, we also had the volunteer efforts of several of the soon-to-be-freed inmates who are preparing to go back into society and their families. The volunteers were polite, friendly and very helpful and we really appreciated their interest in what we were doing and the way they pitched in and helped wherever they were needed.

As a small nonprofit, we are often short on help and when we have an event like a supper, every person who volunteers to help us is welcome and appreciated. I truly wish to thank the staff of the Reentry Center and the residents who volunteered to help us. I’m sure that the young men we met at the supper will succeed in reestablishing their lives and families.

And I know we, members of the Sandy Point Community Club, will remember their services to us fondly and with a hearty thank-you.

Veronica Magnan

Sandy Point Community Club

Stockton Springs

Health care challenges in rural Maine

In now my second time serving in the Maine Legislature, I find the issues relating to health care have gotten much more serious. When I first served in the late 1980s, our local critical care hospital, Blue Hill Memorial, was struggling; like many small rural hospitals, it had to merge with a larger entity in order to survive.

Now we are seeing the costs of health insurance and health care skyrocket, with no thanks to the policies that Washington, D.C., visited upon us. More of the cost is being returned to patients, while their insurance rates still climb.

As it stands now, many doctors and rural hospitals face a serious risk, as they are not big enough to negotiate properly with insurers, so when the claims are denied, the patient gets the bill. This isn’t fair to those who faithfully pay for health insurance policies, which are complicated and can easily leave the patient holding the bag. As Mainers become the oldest state in the nation, this can, as you would imagine, lead to some real problems.

Now Congress is looking for a legislative solution to the issue of surprise medical billing, and it's like many top-down policies; some of them don’t look good for the folks back home. Legislation from Sens. Patty Murray and Lamar Alexander are being touted as “bipartisan” but really seem to be more about furthering the control of insurance companies. The concept of letting government, aided by lobbyists for the insurance companies, come up with a solution is, in some of our minds, akin to letting the fox guard the chicken house.

That is why I am grateful that Mainers have someone like Susan Collins representing us. Sen. Collins works hard to understand the issues, and find reasonable and workable solutions. I am counting on her to continue to do so in the area of surprise medical billing.

One of the approaches that may hold merit is in a bill Sen. Bill Cassidy is proposing to set up an independent arbitration system to get someone with knowledge of the issue advocating for patients. Other options would leave the insurance companies to set rates and pressure out-of-network doctors and small hospitals to buckle under.

This is not right and will leave communities in rural Maine with more challenges for health care. I thank Sen. Collins for standing up for our local health care providers and seeking a good commonsense solution as she always has.

Rep. Sherm Hutchins

Penobscot

Editor's note: Republican Sherm Hutchins represents the Waldo County towns of Prospect and Stockton Springs in the Maine Legislature.

A question of law

In the Nov. 5 issue of the Free Press, Ethan Andrews writes that Jeffrey Mabee and Judith Grace "believe they own the intertidal land" that Nordic is laying claim to. I wonder how many Belfast property owners who hold deeds and surveys would say that they "believe they own" their property. Property ownership is not a question of belief but a question of law.

Ethan also states that this is how we are planning on stopping Nordic, as if this is the primary reason we are defending our property rights. I wonder how you, who are reading this letter, would feel about your neighbor selling a lease to your property for someone to dig a very large trench and lay pipes?

Jeffrey Mabee

Belfast

Editor's note: While The Free Press and The Republican Journal are both owned by Reade Brower, they are separate publications that are independent of each other.

Proper pooh disposal

My dog, Ari, asked me to pass along the following message to other dogs in the community:

"I am Ari and live here in beautiful Belfast. I love when my owners take me for walks in this city, down to the bay, and along the Harborwalk. And I think it's hilarious to watch my owners pick up my poohs (aka "presents") and carry them around until they find a proper disposal unit.

"But, what really makes them grumpy is when they see other plastic bags of your pooh thrown in bushes or even on someone's lawn! That's just not right. So, please let your owner see your displeasure if they are not disposing of your "presents" responsibly. It makes for a much lovelier walk about for all of us."

Debbie Murphy

Belfast

Belfast Senior Center says thanks

The Belfast Senior Center Organization held a free hot dog and bingo open house at the Boathouse Oct. 21 for area senior citizens. Jill Chouinard of Anthem, Blue Cross/Blue Shield Inc. set up, supplied and ran the exciting bingo games. Jill was entertaining and the games provided a lot of fun for the participants. Prizes were awarded and everyone had a good time. Huge thanks, Jill. We all appreciated your vitality, gentle sense of humor and support of the center.

We are grateful to the city of Belfast, Director of Parks and Recreation Norm Poirier, and to the city’s Parks and Recreation Committee for the backing that has been extended to our group. The open house went well, and thank you for all you did in the background to make it a success.

The Belfast Senior Center Organization is so happy at our new location at the Belfast Boathouse. New seniors visited us and we encourage seniors to stop in and support the center.

As the event drew to a close, we had the once-in-a-lifetime experience of watching the former presidential yacht Sequoia being delivered to French & Webb for restoration. A really great day and thanks to all that attended and volunteered!

Mature adults over 60 are welcome to participate, so if you haven’t already, do come be with us at the Belfast Boathouse, Commercial Street, on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Meet new friends. We offer companionship, puzzles, games and volunteer opportunities, coffee, tea and a snack. Admission is free and you are encouraged to bring your lunch and a friend. See you on Tuesday! FMI: BelfastSenior@gmail.com.

Gloria Guyette

for Belfast Seniors Organization

Needs a drink

Support among conservatives for President Trump in my hometown paper and elsewhere is astonishing, disheartening and downright disturbing. Putting aside a temptation, I'll not play the curbside psychiatrist. The facts are more than enough to give a tree stump the willies.

And where would we be without our favorite anecdotes? Here's a lulu: Back when Dear Leader was but a mere birther, he claimed to have sent a team of investigators to Hawaii to expose Obama as a foreign interloper. Their findings of course were fantastic, devastating, enough to send Obama packing. And that of course was the last of that. Since then Trump's whoppers are a matter of record. The Washington Post puts them at around 12,000.

Trump University, misspent charity funds, sleazy dealings with contractors and workers (Trump stiffed them routinely), serial bankruptcies, and on and on, are common knowledge, or so one would have thought. Enter bubbles, and I don't mean a stripper. In this age of information glut, not to neglect opinion glut, and a locust plague of social media, we take comfort in bubbles, which I envision as vaguely resembling those clouds into which digital information is embraced for safe-keeping. We seek refuge in these silly metaphors. It used to be cathedrals and churches. Were I to watch one installment of Sean Hannity, I expect I'd require medical treatment. It's that bad.

I'll share a nightmare. Should Trump lose the 2020 election I anticipate loud claims of voter fraud similar to that of Hillary Clinton's surplus, dismissed by the Electoral College's choice as that of illegal aliens, including perhaps extra-terrestrials. And then on to President for Life. I need a drink.

Mike Silverton

Belfast

 

Comments (7)
Posted by: Ralph Stanley | Dec 02, 2019 16:07

Nordic will walk due to their incompetence. Delays were of their making. No RTI. Incomplete applications. Amending plans without notice. At the very least, Nordic is looking at two of more years of legal delays due to their lack of "due diligence" in doing their homework. You and Cassida like to pick on the bottom feeders on these forums. You bring no substantive criticism of the commentary you comment on. What has Ms. Buckmaster brought forward that you care to specifically comment on? "Gleaned and twisted?" What does that mean?



Posted by: Diane Braybrook | Dec 02, 2019 11:16

Linda Buckmaster, once again you’ve gleaned and twisted whatever “information” you can. And instead of faulting Nordic for the delays, I should think you would be rejoicing. Isn’t this what you and your cronies set out to do?  Delay, delay until they give up?  Sorry, that’s not going to happen.



Posted by: Diane Braybrook | Dec 02, 2019 11:11

Jamila, what makes you think the Coop is anti Nordic? I am sure, like anywhere, some employees favor Nordic and some don’t. The same goes for the many owners.  It is short sighted of you to assume that anyone that works for or goes to the Coop is against NAF. And why do you think you speak for them?

Also Nordic is a member in good standing of the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce. They continue to make a great effort to be good neighbors.

Get over yourself and your pompous attitude.



Posted by: Ralph Stanley | Nov 30, 2019 13:46

Belfast Co-op being a cooperative would by nature live and let live. How could it be any other way? "Our bay has been recovering." What part of our bay did you decide had recovered sufficiently so as to introduce another whole level of discharge the likes of which have not been seen. You mean the part of the Bay at the proposed outlet in Northport? 1600 pounds of nitrogen per day. 7 million gallon discharge per day. Everyday? Two weeks from Bayside to Owls Head. Whose Bay? Belfast turned the corner on polluting the Bay when it was forced to shut down the polluters 45 years ago. The large polluters are done. Move forward not back. If you're going to create this type and scale of enterprise and you are looking to discharge into the waters of Maine, do it on a formerly developed brownfield site near deep water.



Posted by: Holly Faubel | Nov 30, 2019 07:02

Seriously Jacki Cassida... "the heritage of the bay was certainly NOT beautiful. "  The heritage of the Bay did NOT start when there were polluting industries using it as a dumping ground.  And that is why we are not interested in letting that happen again.  Nordic Aquafarms can chose to be a non-polluting industry, respectful of the bay and the beautiful site along the Little River.  It can move the industrial portion of its operation to 100 acres already zoned for commercial/industrial use, and adopt well known and well proven zero discharge technology for raising its fish.  It can put up a very nice corporate headquarters/sales office on the site next to the Little River that would not destroy this lovely publicly used recreational spot.  So there you go...win-win...the City of Belfast get's whatever benefit it is ever going to get, the bay doesn't get polluted, the well loved Little River site is preserved, and Nordic gets a very nice sales/meeting center from which you can continue to promote it's highly profitable business.   So I guess that is really a win-win-win.  No downside for anyone, no pollution, and all the "tax benefits and jobs".  Did I mention that the 100 acre site costs 1/3 the amount of dollars...that's enough of a savings to purchase a smaller portion of the Little River site and get all the benefits of a nice sales center with some money left over.  It could even include the family property that you are interested in leasing to Nordic.  So if I were you I'd start promoting this idea within the company you have chosen to work for...always better to be promoting a better plan that could work, than a lessor plan that doesn't.  Just a suggestion from someone interested in continuing to keep our waters clean and available for all who use it, and our lovely Little River site developed in a manner that doesn't destroy and letting the townspeople reap the rewards of a new industry coming to this lovely little city by the Bay.  So Jacki, help us understand why that isn't a better idea....

 



Posted by: Ralph Stanley | Nov 27, 2019 19:42

Mike Brown sued the City of Belfast under the Clean Water Act. He was Editor of the Republican Journal. His determination to shut down the chicken waste sewer eventually got him fired from the Journal. The paper was owned by Rusty Brace at the time. He personally donated his share of his participation in the lawsuit to the creation of the swimming pool at the City Park. Mike Brown as a conservationist and a conservative Republican would have been completely opposed to any future use of the Bay as a sewer system for any reason. I have his file on the ordeal. He was also not a fan of Mike Hurley. The Clean Water Act was the law. It however did not become active law without the interaction of this individual. Belfast on its own would not have done a thing had it not been for the push by MIke Brown to make it happen.



Posted by: Jacki Cassida | Nov 27, 2019 13:51

Jamila Levasseur, it's unfortunate that you feel that way. On the contrary, Nordic Aquafarms has always stood by the belief that supporting our community in different ways is how we care for its heritage, including the bay. It's important to remind you of it's actual heritage though. In fact, the bay was historically known for its many years of polluted waters. Since the 19th century, the bay had been on the receiving end of sewage and industrial waste discharge from bay and river towns. So, by definition, the heritage of the bay was certainly NOT beautiful. Because of the Clean Water Act, our bay has been recovering and it is just as important to us as it is to the community, that we abide by the regulations that keep it that way. Secondly, I don't know a single business owner that doesn't want to make money- pure and simple. If we are continuing to strive for better solutions above and beyond meeting regulations, then even better.

We were honored to sponsor the Belfast Co-op in the Hometown Heritage Chamber Award, and it speaks to the inclusivity that they value in accepting it from Nordic Aquafarms. Remaining neutral is a stance that makes sense for the Belfast Co-op and provides equal opportunity for all voices to be heard, opponents and proponents alike.

~Jacki @ Nordic Aquafarms



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