Letters, online only

Apr 17, 2018

Editor's note: The following letter was received after deadline for the April 19 issue of The Republican Journal.

Aquaculture in the Little River?

I am strongly opposed to siting a large aquaculture facility in Belfast, Maine. The proposed site is amongst Belfast’s finest land that currently serves as a green belt and wildlife connecting corridor, linking the sea with the lifeblood of the land via riparian habitat and secluded unroaded forests. And the crown jewel is the Little River Trail winding through it. I’ve been out there with the late Skip Pendelton, constructing small trail bridges from forest round wood. It is a magical hike up over hill and dale, crossing small streams, where time suspends — with old growth white pine stands up to the lip of the reservoir. It is a delight in any season, but winter time is a favorite for my son and I.

Aside from destroying this treasure, the proposed facility is largely untested and can have major unintended consequences associated with any hazardous, industrial process, including biohazards. All monocultures turn out to be unstable as they are unknown to natural processes. The mere step of isolating an aquaculture facility from the sea, only addresses a small subset of the hazards and impacts. Producing 60 million pounds of salmon a year from an onshore facility will require massive clean inputs and massive dirty hazardous outputs — in ecological terms, there is no “ecological free lunch.” Inputs will include water, food, land, road space, and energy. Outflows will include manure, biohazards, carbon emissions, traffic, road wear, light and noise pollution and polluted water. Food, energy and water don’t arrive without  ecological costs, often in terms of large monocultures to source the food. The water inputs are extraordinary and when we take clean water and pollute it with fish excrement, it is energy intensive and often impossible to return it to the original condition. I wouldn’t want to drink it, swim in it or eat fish that swim in it. Land areas are needed to sequester wastes. Benign and useful wastes are possible in small scale systems such as small organic farms but among massive monocultures, it is all theoretical and rarely if ever accomplished.

Other impacts include traffic and an outflow of money from our community to some foreign agents. Small, local businesses recycle money within the community where these ventures ship money (in the form of our local commons — fertility, land, water, clean air) out of the community.

A large site of nature now sequestering carbon, providing wildlife habitat, contributing to ground water recharge, providing a green belt, which filters water and air, would be stripped off our accounting sheets, along with uncounted ecosystem services. The land, ruined beyond recognition will be extremely costly and difficult to restore when the project eventually ends.

Aquacultures have a horrible track record of problems that people of common sense, and a pinch of ecological basics did loudly predict. Unfortunately, it is tough to stand up against seasoned monied interests. The very skilled sales people of these industrial schemes have a way of soothing every concern to advance their dream child in hopes of making profits. But profits come from the commons. Our commons. From Our Town Belfast.

I strongly support backing away from this large monoculture. Why ruin the Little River? For what end? That beautiful Penobscot Bay, void of historic fish stocks, has been destroyed by hair-brained schemes and when the creators of them went out of business, they left us taxpayers with the impossible task of cleaning up all the unintended consequences, like miles of mercury sludge rippling into the food chain, and no place to take your son fishing.

Better to spend this resource in restoring Atlantic Salmon and wild fish stocks to the many rivers of Maine. These rivers were ruined by dams, industrial poisons, chemical factories, pulp mills, over cutting of the forests, spraying of blueberry barrens, pumping massive amounts of water for irrigation (which warms the water temperatures in the streams) and then by overfishing. And now by Aquaculture?  We should have learned by now.

Jim Merkel

Belfast

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