State officials said this week that a Belfast land-based salmon farm’s pending application for a submerged lands lease can move forward, despite efforts by two groups to stop it.
Carol DiBello, the submerged lands coordinator for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, wrote an email Wednesday saying as much to Upstream Watch, a Belfast-based nonprofit organization that had submitted a comment in opposition to Nordic Aquafarms’ application.
The comment, which was also filed on behalf of the Maine Lobstering Union, said the application was incomplete because it did not demonstrate that the company has adequate title, right and interest to place its pipelines.
“Due process and due diligence demand that NAF’s third supplemental submission be rejected, as both inadequate and incomplete, for failure to submit the surveys and other documents,” Kim Ervin Tucker, the attorney for Upstream Watch and the Maine Lobstering Union, wrote.
But DiBello said that the Bureau of Parks and Lands had, in consultation with the Maine Attorney General’s office, determined that Nordic Aquafarms had provided sufficient title information and project plans for the bureau to continue processing the application.
“If the proposal is approved, and before the submerged lands lease would be valid, an easement deed would be required for the pipe corridor across the Eckrote property, including to the mean low-water mark,” she wrote.
Nordic has an easement across property owned by Richard and Janet Eckrote that is between the proposed fish farm and Penobscot Bay to help site the pipelines. The pipelines are necessary to bring in water from Penobscot Bay to the salmon farm, and to discharge filtered and treated water from the salmon farm back to the bay. Their siting has seemed problematic for Nordic during the past few months, and the company could not get permission to place them where it originally wanted to.
But at an informational session in March, Nordic officials told community members they had found a path through submerged lands to get to the bay. They said the pipe would be buried so that it will not be visible, and used a map to show where the seawater intake and discharge pipes would be placed.
Nordic officials have said that the ultimate goal of the $500 million Belfast project is to raise as much as 33,000 metric tons of salmon per year, which would equal 7 percent of the salmon consumed in the United States. Since announcing its plans in January 2018, the company has faced stiff opposition by some in Belfast who believe it is too big, too untested and too potentially problematic for Penobscot Bay, among other concerns.