Updated: Nordic defends title, right and interest claim

By Stephanie Grinnell | May 16, 2019

Belfast — In documentation submitted to the Bureau of Parks and Lands May 16, Nordic Aquafarms offers its interpretation of its title, right and interest to intertidal lands via an easement agreement.

Submitted in support of its submerged lands lease to BPL were two letters from attorneys, a letter from Belfast Director of Planning and Codes Wayne Marshall, a letter from engineer James Dorsky and a 2012 property survey by Good Deeds.

Nordic Aquafarms hopes to build a large land-based salmon farm on property in Belfast near the Northport line. A number of concerns have been raised by opponents of the plan, who — 25 hours later — asked BPL for an additional eight-day comment period or an adjudicatory hearing on Nordic's filings to support title, right and interest.

In her cover letter May 16, Nordic counsel Joanna Tourangeau outlined and rebutted opponents' claims that the company does not have permission to cross Route 1 to reach the bay in addition to claims made last week that the Eckrotes — who granted an easement to Nordic to cross intertidal lands — do not own the intertidal area in front of their property.

The letter from Marshall is noted as evidence Nordic has been granted permission to cross under Route 1 with its intake and outflow pipes.

"We believe that Nordic Aquafarm has secured the necessary permit rights from the city to install the proposed pipelines within the bounds of the right-of-way for U.S. Route 1," Marshall wrote.

He also offered the city's interpretation of zoning based on concerns of opponents. Marshall said setback requirements for the buried pipe — which may not be applicable — are 15 feet, not 50 as claimed by opponents in a comment to BPL on Nordic's application.

Further, he said, "The city finds that the ordinance amendments it adopted do not support the allegation in the Losee and Tucker letters." The David Losee and Kim Ervin Tucker letters referenced by Marshall were submitted to BPL on behalf of opponents of the project and stated the industrial-use pipes should not be allowed in the residential zone, where the Eckrote property is located.

Tourangeau said Nordic can claim administrative title, right and interest in the property, which she said is all the company needs to receive a submerged lands lease.

Opponents earlier this week accused Nordic of deception regarding ownership of the intertidal lands in front of the Eckrote property. Attorney Kim Ervin Tucker, in a letter to BPL on behalf of Upstream Watch and Maine Lobstering Union, said a May 8 Facebook post by a representative of Nordic “contains a damning admission” about its title, right and interest in and to a portion of intertidal land where it intends to place intake and outflow pipes to the facility.

In the Facebook post, Nordic describes opponents' efforts as a “crusade.”

“We withheld our surveys when we became aware of this situation some months back — it was not our role to reveal such sensitive information to the community and owners,” the post states. “Some of these shoreline owners might have wanted to acquire rights to their intertidal, while Upstream Watch is now trying to take control of them.”

Earlier this month, Ervin Tucker — again on behalf of Upstream Watch and Maine Lobstering Union — filed a second letter with Maine’s Bureau of Parks and Lands opposing the project. In that letter, she bought up concerns about Nordic’s claims to the intertidal land owned by the Eckrotes and said the intertidal land had been preserved in perpetuity though a deed from Harriet Hartley in 1946 to Fred Poor. Ervin Tucker writes that the lot was sold “ … with the understanding it is to be used for residential purposes only, that no businesses for profit are to be conducted there unless agreed to by Harriet L. Hartely, her heirs or assigns.” Further, the attorney states, “Since Nordic is in business to make a profit, it has no right to use the Eckrote property.”

The current owners of the Hartley-Poor property are Jeffrey Mabee and Judith Grace. In its package submitted to BPL, Upstream Watch included a survey by Donald Richards dated April 24. A letter accompanying the survey states: “The Eckrote’s predecessor in title did not acquire the shore and the flats adjoining their property, they are included in the deed to Mabee and Grace, and there is a restriction on the Eckrotes property from a previous deed which prohibits commercial use.” Mabee and Grace have since granted a conservation easement to Upstream Watch for the intertial land from the Little River to the north side of the Eckrote lot.

Nordic's attorney disputed the claims by opponents.

"NAF sought and received releases from heirs of (Harriet) Hartley," she said. "Following a review of the Hartley chain of title, which UW and MLU state they also conducted, NAF is unaware of any deeds conveyed by Hartley which assign this right to enforce the personal restriction between Hartley and Poor."

The submerged lands lease application — and comments — will be reviewed by BPL, which will author preliminary findings and a preliminary decision. Additional comments will be accepted after the BPL findings and decision are released.

Ervin Tucker on Friday, May 17, requested a delay in the agency's consideration of the application.

"We request that no action be taken on this application prior to May 24 (8 days from the date of Nordic’s submission) and that Upstream and the IMLU be permitted until May 24 (the same 8 days Nordic was given to file its supplement to the application) to file a response prior to further consideration of NAF’s application," she wrote in an email to Submerged Lands Coordinator Carol DiBello. "In the alternative, we request that an adjudicatory hearing be conducted on the issue of NAF’s TRI, pursuant to 5 M.R.S.A. § 9051-A."

 

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.