It’s been two years since Nordic Aquafarms came to town. Let’s review where we are at this point.
Nordic said it would break ground in Spring 2018, then Fall 2018, then 2019. Now they are saying Spring 2020. If past performance is an indication of future success, this is not very encouraging.
Nordic has not secured any of the many state and federal permits it is required to have before breaking ground. Nordic underestimated the rigor of the permit process and has fumbled it with missed application deadlines, insufficient paperwork, errors, and misrepresentations.
According to Erik Heim, Nordic holds $70 million for a $500- million-dollar project. It does not even have enough to pull off Phase 1. Obviously, investors are not beating down its doors.
In its application to the Planning Board, Nordic admits that there is not enough water in the Little River watershed for its uses as well as local homeowners’, this despite its original claims that there was more than enough water. This is based on Nordic’s own test wells (one had saltwater intrusion) and household use monitoring. Now it wants to draw down the reservoir itself and tap into the Goose River City water supply, which also supposedly has plenty of water.
Also in the application, Nordic says it will be using up to eight diesel generators daily to keep its electricity costs down. It plans to use 900,000 gallons of diesel a year.
Nordic has also learned that the soil on the property is not stable enough to support its tanks. It’s now proposing replacing 215,000 cubic yards of soil (322,500 tons) that will be transported in 21,500 dump truck loads.
Nordic has never harvested a market-ready salmon at its tiny (6,000 tons) Norwegian facility (or anywhere else in the world). Major construction problems delayed the startup.
Its current application rests on being able to build its outflow pipes on shoreland property that they do not have legal right to. The issue is in the courts now and could take as long as two years to settle.
The City has devoted tens of thousands of staff hours to this project at taxpayer expense. It has spent another six figures to grease the skids for this proposal. The City is requiring no financial guarantees or bonding from Nordic in case of a problem, leaving itself and Belfast taxpayers exposed to financial injury.
How long do we have to put up with this fiasco? If Nordic ever secures its permits, we will be looking at a three- to five-year construction phase (assuming no delays) followed by a more than two-year grow-out period for the salmon (assuming no technical or biological problems). A headline in “Intrafish,” the premier aquaculture newsletter, asks: “Land-Based Salmon Farming: Is it the next big thing or a pipe dream?”
Linda Buckmaster lives in Belfast