BELFAST, Maine — A Belfast judge struck down a motion aimed at stalling a planned land-based fish farm.
Justice Robert Murray has not made any decisions on the ownership of a contested piece of the intertidal zone that’s crucial for the $500 million Nordic Aquafarms project to proceed, but proponents of the development say the Jan. 24 court ruling moves them a step closer to their goal.
“We look forward to the resolution of costly and time-consuming litigation and continue to move forward with permitting our Belfast project at the local, state and federal levels,” said Marianne Naess, the company’s commercial director.
Access to Penobscot Bay is a critical component of the proposed land-based salmon farm. Nordic has an option to purchase an easement to access the intertidal zone from Richard and Janet Eckrote, who own waterfront property along Route 1. But opponents of the salmon farm argue the Eckrotes cannot legally grant the easement to Nordic, citing a 1946 deed and other legal documents they believe show the couple does not actually own the mudflat.
Neighbors Jeffrey Mabee and Judith Grace maintain they own the intertidal land in question. Last April, they placed the contested property under a conservation easement to protect it from development. It is now known as the Harriet L. Hartley Conservation Area after the waterfront landowner who they say retained the intertidal land for herself when she sold other portions of her properties in the 1940s.
The couple filed a civil complaint against Nordic Aquafarms and the Eckrotes in July 2019 asking the court to grant an injunction to prohibit the developers from seeking permits or leases to run industrial pipelines through the land, among other things.