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Public Hearings Open On Controversial Belfast Salmon Farm

Courtesy of Nordic Aquafarms
A computer rendering of the proposed Nordic Aquafarms site in Belfast.

State regulators opened hearings in Belfast Tuesday to consider a proposed land-based salmon farm that’s drawn protests from local residents.

The Bureau of Environmental Protection is taking testimony on Nordic Aquafarms’ permit applications for salt- and fresh-water intake, effluent discharges to Penobscot Bay, wetland impacts and other issues.

Local resident and writer Lawrence Reichard struck a defiant tone early in the day, saying he would not resort to violence or property damage to stop the project, but "I will bear no allegiance to any rules or regulations promulgated, and edicts issued forth by persons, bodies or agency, that in formulating such edicts have solicited and thus have received precious little input from the good people of Belfast and Waldo County who will have to live with whatever decision this body makes."

After two years of controversy, company officials hope they are at last moving toward construction of an 850,000-square-foot “recirculating aquaculture system” that would ship more than 30,000 metric tons of salmon a year.

“You do get a thicker skin after a while for sure, but I think in the end our job is to answer out all the facts and questions and we have to respect the fact that some may not agree,” says Nordic Aquafarms CEO Erick Heim.

Opponents say that the operations would unduly harm water quality and change the city’s character, while failing to deliver on claims that it would significantly reduce carbon-dioxide emissions associated with importing salmon to the U.S. And neighboring landowners have filed a lawsuit claiming that Nordic has not secured rights to the lands they need to get water to and from the bay.

The hearings continue through Thursday, and there is a designated session for comments from the general public starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center in Belfast.

Correction:  The local resident and writer quoted is named Lawrence Reichard, not Jim Reichard.

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.