BELFAST, Maine — If you live in Belfast or any coastal Maine town, you're used to the sea, but after years of meetings and discussions, things may get a lot fishier.
Nordic Aquafarms approached Belfast three years ago with a salmon farm site proposal with an initial build cost of $150 million and could exceed that amount to $500 million due to property expansions.
The company approached the city with its proposal and then began the long process of fielding community concerns or questions, and obtaining necessary permits.
On Thursday, Nordic was awarded the four permits required by the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) to advance with the project.
“We think (the BEP has) done a solid job assessing the project and of course we’re happy with the outcome," company president Erik Heim said Friday.
The four permits were listed in a release sent by Nordic:
NRPA (Natural Resources Protection Act), SLODA (Site Location of Development Act), MEPDES (Maine Pollutant Discharge Elimination System), Minor Air Emissions permit.
The company still needs local and federal permits in order to continue the project. The Mayor of Belfast, Eric Sanders, said he's been on board with the project from the beginning.
“The future of sustainable food is right at our doorstep, it’s really for the future of Belfast," Sanders said. “But more importantly the tax revenue would benefit everybody that lives in Belfast.”
Sanders added the building process of the farm would add dozens of construction jobs to cater to the project's needs.
He added he has three kids and through them, he's been able to meet younger residents of Belfast. That is one reason why he supports this project because the salmon farm can give future generations jobs and sustainable food.
"If we have that we have (an) economic future and a tax revenue base for everyone in the city. It’s a win-win, for us and the environment," Sanders said.
While obtaining the permits was another step in the right direction, it doesn't mean the ground will be broken anytime soon.
Amy Grant is the President of Upstream Watch, a group opposing the site Nordic chose in Belfast and the environmental data the company presented during the permitting process.
“Our attorneys began drafting the appeals a couple of weeks ago in anticipation of this," Grant said about Nordic opening the state-level permits. “Where the politics will be set aside, and it will come down to the law and that’s where we will prevail, I’m sure.”
Among discharge and wastewater concerns that would come from the facility, Grant said Nordic does not have the title, right, or interest to the land the company plans to put its intake and discharge.
“It’s like trying to build a house on land you don’t own, obviously that’s not going to work," She said.
The land, Grant added, is owned by two Belfast residents. Upstream Watch is taking Nordic to court on the matter.
“An applicant has to show they have a title, right or interest, to land in which they want to build. We laid out a trail I think a sixth-grader could understand and I think this will be a simple two-day trial and that will be it," Grant added.
The dates for the appeal process and the first trial date will be set in the coming months.