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Residents argue Nordic is 'too young' a company for Belfast project

By Stephanie Grinnell | Aug 21, 2019
Photo by: Stephanie Grinnell In an Aug. 19 presentation, Nordic Aquafarms' company history is shown as a graphic.

Belfast — Area residents shared concerns about Nordic Aquafarms’ technical ability to design and operate a land-based salmon farm with Planning Board members Monday night.

In addition, the board accepted another intervenor application, as well as taking several votes to move Nordic Aquafarms’ application forward.

A number of speakers on the company’s technical ability cited its young age — 5 years old — as an indication of inexperience, including Perkins Road property owner and Searsmont resident Ellie Daniels.

“Their relative inexperience is not sufficient for a project of this size,” Daniels said.

Other people suggested alternative systems that have been developed in recent years as better options than those proposed by Nordic and spoke to the difficulty in gaining insurance on recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS). Belfast resident Linda Buckmaster noted the company presented a lot of resumes but not a lot of information about its actual systems.

“We don’t want 40 acres in Belfast to be an experiment,” she said.

Holly Faubel of Belfast spoke about patents. She said Nordic has claimed to have multiple patents but a search revealed only one active one. As she spoke, Nordic President Erik Heim could be seen shaking his head, along with his wife, Marianne Naess, who is the company’s commercial director.

Later, Project Director Ed Cotter briefly mentioned accusations made during the hearing.

“We would not be able to respond to all (questions raised),” he said. “But we heard several statements misquoted.”

Belfast resident Dirk Faegre said he lives less than a mile from the proposed development. He’s been impressed with the company’s efforts today, he said, particularly when it comes to testing private wells in the area. Before conducting pumping tests for the facility, Nordic officials approached him to ask if they could place a monitoring device in his well — he agreed and said he was shown the results and offered, in writing, assurances about the water quantity and quality continuing. If those assurances are not met, Faegre said, the company will connect his home — at their cost — to city water.

The experience and number of current staff is a concern of Andy Stevenson. He said the company needs to “grow a team before they grow a business.” To date, many of the employees are based on Norway or Denmark, with fewer than a dozen actively working in Belfast. As well, Stevenson said he is concerned about what might happen inside the facility in the event of an extended power outage.

Belfast resident Jim Merkel spoke at length about a variety of concerns, at times being asked by the board’s acting chairman to stay on topic.

Planning Board members, after closing the hearing at 8:25 p.m., talked briefly about how to move forward and get answers to some of the questions. It was determined that the company will work with city staff to provide written answers to the board. The role of city staff is simply to collect and present the questions from the hearing, City Attorney Bill Kelly noted.

Early in the meeting, Director of Codes and Planning Wayne Marshall said he inadvertently missed an application from Larry and Betty Theye, whose property lies directly across the street from the proposed land-based salmon farm. Without discussion or objection, the board voted to approve the Theyes as parties in interest to the Nordic application, which gives the couple an elevated standing in the process as well as the right to appeal Planning Board decisions.

Mike Lannin, rejected at the Aug. 5 meeting for the status, submitted additional information but was again denied intervenor status with the city. Marshall noted different standards apply than those used by the state — Lannin, and a number of others, were granted intervenor status by Maine Board of Environmental Protection on the state applications last week.

Nordic representatives also made an overview presentation of the project so the board could determine if the proposed uses are allowed under city zoning.

“This is an early action,” Marshall said. “Because if they’re not allowed, this review stops now.”

Acting Chairman Declan O’Connor described the impending votes as “creating a package of permitted uses. And if we find a use that’s not permitted, then this whole thing stops.”

Eight separate votes — all unanimous — concluded Nordic’s proposed uses are allowed. Those uses are a land-based aquaculture facility, significant well water extraction, significant groundwater intake and discharge, and placement of the pipes required. A vote was taken on each zoning district — the projects falls within three — and proposed use.

The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 26, at 6 p.m. at University of Maine Hutchinson Center. Agendas are posted on the city website. Marshall noted because not all topics were covered Monday evening, they will be pushed to the 26th, including visual impact and buffers, as well as historical assessment. Additional topics will be considered as time allows at each three-hour meeting.

Parties in interest are limited to 10 minutes of speaking, while the public will be limited to four minutes. O’Connor stated he intends to enforce the time limit going forward.

“We’ve got to hold to it because, as you can see, we’re not getting through (the agenda),” he said.

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Comments (15)
Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Aug 26, 2019 19:05

So a company of their strength would have no problem putting up a bond to protect us stupid people right?

Posted by: Eric Schrader | Aug 25, 2019 04:44

Wow, Domenic, that is one serious spanking that you put on ole Ken Wall. I couldn't have done it better myself. Ken yells "Profit", so the last time I checked, we live in a capitalist society, so NAF is not going through all this trouble for practice. How naïve to think that actually being rewarded financially for your efforts is somehow unacceptable. Oh, and Ken, you actually have to have some gray matter upstairs to understand finances for which Domenic rightly points out that it's none of your business unless you put your money where that pie hole in your face is and become an investor. Otherwise, as Colonel Jessup said at the end of Few Good Men, "I really don't give a damn what you think you deserve".

Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Aug 24, 2019 23:42

It is the partnership with the City that draws this money debate forward.  That partnership with the City and committing to purchase so much water from the water district, or other partnerships with the City allows the financial questions to come into play.  That is because the City as partner and the City is 100% of the tax paying citizens of the City.  The anti fish tankers so to speak are partners and protecting their investments.  If the company wanted their finances left out of this then the tax paying Citizens of Belfast shouldn't have participated in financing ANY part of this project.


The should be  a large enough bond to protect the City tax payers of their investments.   Remember I am FOR the aqua culture and thrilled Whole Oceans is progressing along.

Posted by: Domenic Ruccio | Aug 24, 2019 16:04

Difficult not to be reminded of Twain's "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt."


Where do you get the unmitigated arrogance to demand an explanation of a private company's financial structure?  What right do you have to that information?   And because you, obviously, do not have the faintest grasp of corporate finance, you brought out some sophomoric, half-baked, off-the-cuff  "analysis" that somehow baselessly implies that the company or the city isn't being truthful about "the numbers."   That company owes you absolutely no explanations of their finances unless your are contractually so entitled as an investor.  Who the hell are you to demand answers from this company on its internal financing?  It is pretty much the equivalent of me asking questions about your personal finances and then ranting for an answer like I somehow have a right to it.    Let's see your "financials and means."


Your standing as a citizen of the area in which a company wishes to invest its money are limited to the environmental, infrastructural and societal impacts on the area in which you live.  You have no standing to demand answers as to how they structure their internal finances.


And, yes, most major corporations in America are registered in Delaware for reasons related to rules surrounding corporate structure, reporting and taxation.  To not understand how common and accepted that practice this is is to demonstrate a level of ignorance that makes one wonder if occasionally you need to be reminded how to breath.  Or is your problem simply the fact that this isn't an American company?  And if it's simply large corporations that you find unpalatable, regardless of national origin, you better stop going to Waldo County Hospital.  They're a pretty large corporation, too.


And I said nowhere that people should "pack up and leave" if they don't like it.  That would be an example of an outright lie like the many that we have seen from the opponents in this debate.


Some of the posts here do nothing but reinforce my original observations:  much of the public response to this project has been unprincipled, dishonest, ignorant and unhinged.  Some has been thoughtful and reasoned.  Nordic has responded to all  with openness, honesty, candor and forbearance.  If that makes me a shill for openness, honesty, candor and forbearance, I'm fine with that.

Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Aug 24, 2019 10:06

Eric......they may be a mixture but the one thing in common is......wait for it....PROFIT !!!!!!!

Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Aug 24, 2019 10:03

Will the number be shown or crickets and hidden numbers?  my guess is the later

Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Aug 24, 2019 10:01

then show the numbers Eric!!!!  Teach us!


Posted by: Eric Schrader | Aug 24, 2019 08:07

Hey Ken, you need to go back and take Accounting 101, cuz your numbers are a mixture of balance sheet, cash flows and P & L all rolled into one. The 500 million investment is only at full build out.

Posted by: Ralph Stanley | Aug 23, 2019 06:25

My comments were  not directed at you Mr. Hall. It was at the individual who used the word vitriol. You have very legitimate questions asking for factual information.

Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Aug 22, 2019 22:34

I just wanted an explanation of the numbers.  Didn't think it was vitriol at all, but just yankee common sense in trying to understand a budget like every citizen in the City lives by.  I used an EXTREMELY conservative return rate of 1.5% interest.


I asked a question of finances once before and Mr Heim's response was to pull the project and he felt it was an unwanted project.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  I'd like to see NA be a huge success, but I can't figure out the numbers and no one has come close to explaining the numbers.


I suppose not explaining the numbers could scare the CIty into having the company require a bond be floated instead of simply showing the monies, OR is there something to hide?

Posted by: Ralph Stanley | Aug 22, 2019 14:10

Vitriol? Outright lies? Idiocy? Last I was informed, Nordic was just another corporate entity set up in Delaware for purposes of taxation. You sound like another shill. Another argument Big Guy? These do not appear to be singular arguments as we move forward. They are arguments added to the pot still waiting for answers. Pack up and leave? You sound like the love it or leave it crowd from days past. You could high tail it early to your paradise in the Bahamas but you would be unmissed.

Posted by: Domenic Ruccio | Aug 22, 2019 07:42

You know, much as it hurts me to say it, at this point I cannot help but wonder if all this idiocy and vitriol would be directed at an American company.   Given the disingenuousness of so many of the arguments, this new one being a standout, one has to wonder.

The ridiculous level of scrutiny, disinformation, outright lies, and invective this company has been met with is embarrassing and just plain wrong.   Is this really who we are?  I didn't think so . . . .


Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Aug 21, 2019 20:11

$500 million dollar investment.  Investors making 1.5% interest on a 20 year note, equals $2,412,727 per month or $28,952,724 per year.  That pays investors without paying anything to the City, Water District, or ANY utilities, payroll, etc, etc .


Remember we are dealing with a "perishable" product.   I am assuming "humans" will be running the plant.  Would a human make a mistake "ever"???   Big numbers require big safety nets.   Time to show the cards.  Or as they say "show me the money!"


Help me understand the numbers please.

Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Aug 21, 2019 19:51

Financial documentation and means for ALL involved.

Posted by: Seth Thayer | Aug 21, 2019 06:35

Oooo look, a new argument, because all the other ones have failed.  Too young a company??  Give me a break.  Ellie, time to pack up and move to Searsmont and stop wasting everyone's time. Were you experienced enough when you opened the Green Store?  When you delivered your first baby...was there anyone looking over your shoulder saying that, since you had never delivered a baby before, perhaps you shouldn't do it?? But you did it anyway, without being a doctor.....Again, time to move on, Ellie.

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