Letter to the editor: Michael Hurley

Maine and Belfast have moved to the center stage of aquaculture industry

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 3:15pm

Good evening. I am Michael Hurley, a Belfast resident, and currently serving as a Belfast City Council member. I first want to thank the members of the Belfast Planning Board and the volunteer staff that have shown us the meaning of professionalism, endurance, and consideration. I also thank the staff. To all of you serving Belfast thank you.

To Nordic Aquafarms and all your representatives I express my appreciation for your tenacity in bearing up and staying the course.

To the opposition, many who are my friends and neighbors, I recognize that many have different perspectives for opposing this project. As far as the climate change crisis being the motivation I will say that all people on this earth should share the sense that we in this world are in a crisis. I may disagree with where many Belfast people stand regarding this proposal but there should be no doubt that we are in a worldwide crisis due to climate change.

I am neither a lawyer nor a scientist. I do, however, understand what the board will consider as it addresses this complicated application. Much of the public commentary has had little to do with what the Planning Board will weigh as it works on the application. I do have the full confidence in how each of you individually and as a body will do the hard work of disregarding the chaff and focusing on the relevant issues.

Since much has been said that had no relevance to the application; please allow me to join in. I am a longtime political observer.

The greatest landslide in American presidential history was when Franklin Roosevelt defeated Alf Landon (who?!!!) winning with a margin of  61 % to 35%.

Over the last two years, we have had six Belfast elections either contested head to head or featuring salmon farm proponents running without an opponent. Each election, individually, and as a group, could not have been more decisive.

Those wishing to have a fair hearing of Nordic’s application to be reviewed by the proper boards, agencies and commissions have won every race with a combined total of 70 % to 30%. Have no doubt about how the great majority of Belfast feels about Nordic Aquafarms. The voters of Belfast are paying close attention and they have been expressing themselves decisively at the ballot box.

Are there code, scientific, and legal matters to be settled?  They will be settled by the planning board, real scientists, real lawyers, real courts and real judges. It will take time, some have said too much time, but I have every confidence in good time the issues will be resolved.

Perhaps it has taken too long.  But at the end of all this; the people of Belfast will feel that the points and positions of this great debate were made and judged to have merit or not. No one will be able to claim they did not get a fair hearing. The great majority of Belfast will support the final verdicts.

Two years ago prior to Nordic Aquafarms first proposal most of us would have thought aquaculture was some young couple growing mussels or harvesting seafood.

Few of us knew that nearly 90% of all seafood consumed in the USA is imported.

Over 52 % of all seafood consumed in the world is farmed.

The one takeaway I learned very early was that aquaculture in all its forms is a huge worldwide industry and Maine with our abundant waters and wild lands with close proximity to 100 million people has moved Maine and Belfast to the center stage of aquaculture. This is only the beginning for Maine. It’s new and big for Belfast. This is all the more reason to carefully review the application and the code requirements.

Lastly I again thank the planning board. Thank you for taking the heat and staying in the kitchen. Thank you to the city staff supporting our board. And thanks to Nordic Aquafarms.

Michael Hurley lives in Belfast and is a city councilor