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Northport crowds in for Upstream Watch meeting

By Stephanie Grinnell | Jul 18, 2019
Photo by: Stephanie Grinnell Upstream Watch President Amy Grant speaks about her organization July 15 at Bayside Community Center.

Northport — Upstream Watch President Amy Grant said the Northport crowd that turned out Monday night for an informational meeting about the organization tripled from its first meeting.

A panel of speakers shared information about Upstream Watch and its opposition to Nordic Aquafarms’ proposed land-based salmon farm in Belfast. At Bayside Community Center, local residents as well as some from neighboring towns spent more than an hour in the July heat listening to Grant, John Krueger, Sid Block, Kim Ervin Tucker and David Losee speak to specifics of Nordic’s applications and how the project might negatively impact Northport. A few questions were taken toward the end of the meeting as well.

Grant described Upstream Watch as “the boring, methodical group” that is working at the state level to challenge Nordic to “prove the facility won’t do harm to our bay or aquifers.” She said the focus for Upstream Watch beyond Nordic is CPR — conserve, preserve, restore.

Krueger, a longtime chemical engineer and state-level environmental official, noted, “One bad day could ruin the bay.” He spoke about temperatures, currents and wildlife that might be adversely impacted by Nordic’s discharge into the bay. As well, he spoke of more sustainable alternatives such as one operated by Green Wave in Connecticut that farms a variety of sea products vertically. Krueger said small aquaculture operations could offer greater employment and revenue to the area.

Block, a Bayside resident, recalled when wells failed and the Northport Village Corp. Board of Overseers was forced to negotiate with Belfast Water District for water and install expensive pipes and other infrastructure. He said his initial impression of Nordic’s proposal was positive — partially based on plans for preservation of the nature trail.

However, Block noted, there is noting in writing from Nordic preserving a right of way to access the trailhead. He speculated about tax impacts to Belfast if Nordic — as Whole Oceans in Bucksport has done — requested a 70% tax abatement. In addition, Block said, Nordic has not committed to repairing any damage it causes.

The bay off Northport where the Nordic intake and discharge pipes will lie is more like a lake, cut off by Islesboro, than it is a bay, Block said. Because of the island’s proximity, currents take 14 days to carry debris past Islesboro, he said.

“If the water is ever perceived to be unfit for swimming, sailing, fishing, not only will our property values fall, but also tourism,” Block said.

Ervin Tucker, an attorney working closely with opponents of the project, addressed potential problems with mercury being disturbed by construction. She said nearly 200 lobstermen rely on the area for their livelihoods and said the lobster fishery would be closed if the mercury is disturbed.

“Nordic wants to not only dig, but blast,” she said. “ … That’s an existential threat.”

Ervin Tucker also is heavily involved with the title, right and interest issue through Upstream Watch, Jeffrey Mabee and Judith Grace. It was discovered by Upstream Watch volunteers that the intertidal land Nordic hopes to cross with its pipes belongs to Mabee and Grace, who are adamantly against allowing Nordic access. Nordic attorneys are claiming “color of title” should allow state permits to proceed.

“And the state seems to be hell bent on pushing this project though,” Ervin Tucker said. “… This is a dangerous project as proposed.”

Losee, an attorney, said he was so incensed at a denied meeting between Nordic and Upstream Watch that he decided to become licensed to practice law in Maine. He shared his notes from a Belfast Planning Board meeting that outlines the rules for speaking and submitting information.

A member of the audience asked why some large environmental groups and local land trust organizations haven’t come out against the project.

“I share your disgust,” Ervin Tucker said, adding the National Resources Council of Maine helped defeat pertinent legislation and was on the same side of the issue as Nordic. Other organizations have offered support for the project, she said, including Conservation Law Foundation.

Upstream Watch has assigned captains to topics that will be discussed by Belfast Planning Board as part of Nordic’s city applications. Losee noted help is required from volunteers to organize information well in advance of meetings.

Nordic has touted its ability to remove 85% of the nitrogen when treating discharge waters, which it says is the highest percentage in the aquaculture industry.

Speaking to nitrogen expected to be released into the bay, Ervin Tucker noted Maine does not have a limit but noted the amount will be high; Block said 15 times greater nitrogen than the entire city of Belfast releases in a year.

A large crowd packs Bayside Community Center on July 15 to hear speakers from Upstream Watch. (Photo by: Stephanie Grinnell)
David Losee speaks about what motivated him to join Upstream Watch's efforts to oppose Nordic Aquafarms. (Photo by: Stephanie Grinnell)
Attorney Kim Ervin Tucker explains legal aspects of the fight against Nordic Aquafarms by Upstream Watch. (Photo by: Stephanie Grinnell)
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Comments (1)
Posted by: Eric Schrader | Jul 20, 2019 04:37

Hey Upstream Watch, the train has left the station. All aboard. You're wasting your time. This is a done deal. Why not use all this energy to invest in an effort to help our less fortunate citizens in the area.

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