The end of a long permitting effort

By Erik Heim | Jan 25, 2020

Belfast — As Nordic Aquafarms approaches the end of permitting in Belfast, we look back at two years of hard work and a daily learning in a new community for our company.

I am proud of our staff in Maine who have come onboard over the past year and a half. They have shown tremendous dedication, personal development and resilience. Their job has been challenging every step of the way. They have learned our business, spent unknown hours navigating local conditions, and are now bringing an extensive permitting effort to an end. I have been most impressed by their integrity and values — they have genuinely worked to create a world-class, cutting-edge project in Belfast in concert with our European staff.

But we have also been accused of lying, misrepresentation and incompetence. In my two years working in Maine, I emphatically believe there is not a single instance when our staff has lied to anyone. They have navigated a very challenging landscape in Belfast where they have been subject to scrutiny far beyond normal, by people of both good and hostile intentions. As a result, the tolerance margin for errors has been almost zero.

They have worked to address many fair questions and concerns. They have also worked in a context where anything they say may be used against them. They have faced a flood of factually incorrect information, misrepresentations and distortions from some. All of our staff respect the right for differing opinions about development in Belfast, but they follow facts.

Nordic Aquafarms has also been accused of making changes to our permit applications. Countless hours have gone into navigating a complex permitting landscape in Maine. In any permitting process I have gone through, there is always a lot of back and forth between permitting authorities and the applicant. Additional information or changes are commonly requested before a permitting process can be complete.

There is no blue book template for complete permit applications. This process has been going on for almost a year in our case because the permitting authorities in Maine are being extremely thorough. Our staff have truthfully developed and provided information as requested with the support of experienced vendors in Maine. Based on my many years in the seafood segment, Nordic’s permit application is one of the most robust I have ever seen in our industry.

Inflammatory commentary and photo-edited images of this project bringing catastrophe to the community are difficult to reconcile. We understand that although both proponents and opponents consider themselves environmentalists, they have clashing ideologies when it comes to this project, What we have seen is that purported impacts have been vastly overstated by some.

Here and everywhere we operate, we believe in and rely on strict environmental standards, good animal welfare standards and a commitment to social justice. I have assessed aquaculture locations for many years — Belfast is one of the very best locations in Maine and possibly the U.S. The opportunity for Belfast is unique.

By this time, we had planned to have hired many more people in Belfast. Counting construction and company positions, the project involves hundreds of jobs. Young and older staff would already be visiting local restaurants and stores. We hope to deliver this to the town in 2020. Nordic Aquafarms has a number of projects in development around the world. We move forward with or without Belfast in a seafood segment that is widely supported by respected environmental institutions in Maine, the U.S., and internationally.

Finally, I want to take the opportunity to sincerely thank those in Belfast who have stood up for a fair and fact-based process for this project. Belfast citizens have twice voted to encourage the continued development of this project. Consideration of this project has demanded time and effort from many, both for and against the project.

From a permitting perspective, this process will come to an end in 2020. Closure is good for all.

Erik Heim is president of Nordic Aquafarms Inc.

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