Belfast salmon farm plans move forward

BELFAST — The mills of the gods are said to grind slow and so, it seems, does the process for establishing a land-based salmon farm.

Last week, Nordic Aquafarms, which has plans to build a state-of-the-art land-based salmon farm in Belfast, gave formal notice that it will file an application for a wastewater discharge permit with the Department of Environmental Protection sometime in the second half of October. The permit is required by the federal Clean Water Act.

Before filing the application, the company plans to hold a public informational meeting next Thursday, Oct. 4, at 6 p.m. at the Troy A. Howard Middle School in Belfast.

According to the notice, which Nordic mailed to neighbors of the proposed project and published in an area newspaper, the meeting will give the company the chance to “inform the public of the project and its anticipated environmental impacts,” and to inform interested parties about the opportunity to comment on the project.

Nordic announced that it had acquired access to Penobscot Bay “to reduce environmental impact” from its facility.

Initially, the company planned for its intake and discharge pipes to open into the Little River. That has changed.

The company said that, during the summer, it secured an easement through a neighboring property across Route 1 that fronts on the bay.

“This option gives us the shortest route to deep water, and underwater surveying shows that other ecological impacts are much lower than the Little River route,” company CEO Erik Heim said in a statement. Nordic will bury all pipes so they will not visible, he said.

According to Heim, Nordic Aquafarms will set “a new standard in discharge treatment” for wastewater from its operations and looks forward to presenting information that will be included its permit application.

Under DEP rules, questions and answers from the meeting will become part of the company’s formal permit application. The discharge application will be the first of several permit applications Nordic will ultimately file with local, state and federal authorities.

Nordic Aquafarms’ proposal drew considerable opposition when it was first announced, from neighbors concerned with the salmon farm’s impacts on the surrounding area. Late last month, the company announced that it would buy about 14 acres of land owned by window manufacturer Mathews Brothers to serve as a buffer zone for the adjoining the 40-acre parcel it has contracted to buy from the Belfast Water District. The additional land will allow Nordic “to establish optimal buffers between our facility and the nearby trails, dam and reservoir, and to ensure that we are compliant with setback requirements and fire codes,” the company said in a statement.

Despite the increase in land area, the footprint of the facility itself and the overall production capacity won’t change.

Road access to the facility will remain at the existing Belfast Water district entrance on Route 1. The operation will utilize “green buffers,” Heim said. Where necessary, the company will build mounds and plant trees “to minimize visual impact of the facility.”

Plans call for the facility to be built in two phases over the next six to seven years. Ultimately, Nordic expects to grow as much as 66 million pounds of Atlantic salmon in its self-contained, land-based Belfast facility.

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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