One university, nonprofit, business not recommended by BEP staff

Neighbors, fishermen, swimmer, research nonprofit recommended for intervener status in state review of Belfast salmon plant

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 12:30pm

AUGUSTA — On Aug. 15, the Maine Board of Environmental Protection will decide whether to agree with environmental agency staff on recommendations of who should be granted intervenor status in the state’s review and processing of the Nordic Aquafarm application to build a large indoor salmon raising and processing plant in Belfast.

On the list for possible approval are neighbors and nonprofits; those not recommended for approval include the University of New England and a business. 

In June, the BEP, which acts independently of the Department of Environmental Protection, agreed to assume licensing jurisdiction for the Nordic application. That means that the BEP will be holding a hearing or hearings to consider the four permit requests from the Norwegian company to site its facility in Belfast that have been filed with the DEP.

The proposal to site a large scale Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) fish farm on the southern edge of Belfast has been a controversial topic for 18 months, and the DEP, along with Nordic and a nonprofit opposed to the fish farm all appealed to the BEP to take over the multi-permit review and decision process.

The BEP had received 11 petitions to intervene. Those petitions are requests from people and groups to speak and submit information for the BEP to consider while it reviews and decides on the various permit applications association with the salmon operation.

To be granted intervener status, the individual or group must prove that the proceedings will substantially and directly affect them: 

“A petition shall be granted if it demonstrates that the petitioner is or may be, or is a member of a class which is or may be, substantially and directly affected by the proceeding,” according to state rules. “The Department may, at its discretion, allow any other person to intervene and participate as a party to the proceeding. A petition for leave to intervene may be granted to allow participation as a full or limited party to theproceeding.”

Nordic Aquafarms is seeing air, water, and discharge permits and licenses from the state.

Petitions received

The Board received 11 petitions to intervene in the proceeding. Petitions were received from the following people and groups:

Maine Lobstering Union (IMLU), Wayne Canning, and David Black

Upstream Watch

Jeffrey R. Mabee and Judith B. Grace

Eleanor Daniels and Donna Broderick

Northport Village Corporation

University of New England

Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Trudy Miller and the School of Fish

The Fish Are Okay

Maine & Company

Lawrence Reichard

 

Staff Recommendation

BEP staff issued a memo to the BEP, which outlines reasons for recommending certain people and groups to be approved to intervene. Some petitions for intervener status were argued by Nordic Aquafarm. (Read the complete memo here)

The following are recommended for leave to intervene. The quotes immediately following are from BEP staff with the recommended language of proposed BEP orders for when that board meets Aug. 15. The board may not agree with the recommendations made by staff and vote differently than what has been recommended.

  • Maine Lobstering Union (IMLU), Wayne Canning, and David Black

“As representatives of lobstermen that fish in the affected area and depend upon the health of the fishery resources of Belfast and Penobscot Bay, the Board finds that IMLU, Wayne Canning and David Black may be substantially and directly affected by the proceeding and have demonstrated that they are prepared to present testimony and evidence relevant to the licensing criteria.”

    • Upstream Watch
    • “The Board finds that Upstream Watch’s membership includes persons who live next to or in the vicinity of the proposed project and/or utilize natural resources which may be affected by the proposed project. As such, the Board finds that Upstream Watch may be substantially and directly affected by the proceeding and has demonstrated that it is prepared to present testimony and evidence relevant to the licensing criteria.”

Jeffrey R. Mabee and Judith B. Grace
“Petitioners Jeffrey R. Mabee and Judith B. Grace are abutters of the proposed project and assert that they are the true owners of the intertidal land on or under which Nordic proposes to place its saltwater intake and wastewater discharge pipelines. Accordingly, the Board finds that Mr. Mabee and Ms. Grace may be substantially and directly affected by the proceeding.”

    • Eleanor Daniels and Donna Broderick
    • “Petitioners Eleanor Daniels and Donna Broderick own property at 38 Perkins Road in Belfastwhich abuts Nordic’s proposed facility. In their petition, they cite concerns about the impact of the proposed freshwater withdrawals on the aquifer and the impact of the proposed wastewater discharge on the waters of Belfast Bay. They also express concerns about the impact of the proposed project on “vulnerable species, ecosystems and local fisheries.  The Board finds that Ms. Daniels and Ms. Broderick, as owners of land abutting Nordic’s proposed facility, may be substantially and directly affected by the proceeding.”
  • Northport Village Corporation
  • “Northport Village Corporation (NVC) states in its petition that it is ‘the entity that governs the incorporated municipality of the Village of Bayside, within the Town of Northport and adjacent to the City of Belfast.’ NVC states that Bayside’s ‘waters, mooring field and public space are adjacent to the wastewater discharge outflow.’  In general, NVC cites concerns about the operation of the wastewater discharge infrastructure under various weather and climatic conditions and has questions regarding the daily and cumulative impacts of the wastewater discharge on the quality of Penobscot Bay waters. The Board finds that NVC is a governmental body that represents the Village of Bayside whose members reside near and utilize the natural resources of Belfast Bay. As such, NVC may be substantially and directly affected by the proceeding.”

Gulf of Maine Research Institute
“Petitioner Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) states that it is an independent, non-profit whose mission is to ‘pioneer collaborative solutions to global ocean challenges.’ GMRI states that its work is 'focused on the waters and fisheries, wild andfarmed, of the Gulf of Maine and Bay of Fundy” and has looked at ways the State maydiversify its traditional fishing economy through responsible aquaculture.The petition does not include specific contentions regarding the subject matter of the hearing and the relevant review criteria. The petitioner, however, does state that it can bring ‘oceanographic, ecologic, seafood supply chain, aquaculture industry, business management, and operations knowledge and insight’ to the proceeding.The Board finds that the mission of the GMRI is closely tied to many of the issues and licensing criteria that must be considered by the Board in its review of Nordic’s applications; therefore, GMRI may arguably be directly and substantially affected by the proceeding. Additionally, regardless of how GMRI may be affected by the proceeding, GMRI offers to bring expert witnesses in subject areas that are directly related to the relevant licensing criteria.”

    • The Fish Are Okay
    • “The Fish Are Okay states that it is a nonprofit formed in the spring of 2019 for the purpose of ‘encouraging citizens, local businesses and other organizations to become informed about NAF’s plans to construct and operate a land-based aquaculture facility...’
    • “The petition states that the organization is staffed by volunteers ‘who collectively are citizens, business owners and retirees spanning several generation of Waldo County residents.’ The organization states that it does not propose to address technical issues but can offer “insight into the pattern of cultural, historic and environmental value associated with the project and its site” including, among other things, water supply and recreational impacts at the site.The petition states that its efforts are supported by “a half dozen or so families living in homes abutting or nearby the site...who do not oppose Nordic’s project.’ 
    • Lawrence Reichard
      “In his petition, Lawrence Reichard states that he is a resident of Belfast and that he swims inthe waters of Belfast Bay and from the Northport pier, which ‘lies in very close proximity to the effluent discharge pipe proposed by Nordic Aquafarms.’  
    • “In addition to impacts on recreation, he expresses concerns with the total volume of the wastewater discharge, the amount of nitrogen in the discharge and its effect on algal blooms, the potential for fish to escape from the facility, and the impact of facility operations on native fish populations. Mr. Reichard also states that he is a hiker and that he utilizes the Little River Trail and the Belfast Woods which he believes would be adversely impacted by the proposed project.
    • “Mr. Reichard also comments on the carbon footprint of the proposed project. The Board finds that Mr. Reichard, as a resident of Belfast who recreates in Belfast Bay and utilizes the public access trail in the vicinity of the proposed project, may be substantially and directly affected by the proceeding.”“The Board finds that The Fish Are Okay was organized, in part, to facilitate citizen review of the proposed project. Its supporters and representatives include persons who own property that abuts or is in close proximity to the proposed project site. Accordingly, The Fish Are Okay and its representatives may be substantially and directly affected by the proposed project.”

 

Not recommended
BEP staff did not recommend that the following entities obtain intervener status:
 
University of New England
“In its petition, the University of New England states that it is the largest private higher education university in Maine. Its mission is ‘to provide education, research and other institutional support to Maine and international businesses, including aquaculture.’
 
“ It states that Nordic’s application impacts ‘opportunities for state-of-the-art aquaculture research with faculty and applied graduate and undergraduate employment and internships for students.’ The petition does not include any specific contentions regarding the subject matter of the hearing and the relevant review criteria, nor does it state what evidence relevant to the licensing criteria it may bring to the proceeding. 
 
The Board finds that the educational and research opportunities that may be provided by the proposed project if it is approved and constructed are not issues which the Board may consider in its review of Nordic’s applications. The University of New England has not shown how it may be substantially and directly affected by the proceeding in areas that arerelevant to the Board’s review of the applications.”
 
Trudy Miller and the School of Fish
“In their petition, Trudy Miller and The School of Fish state that The School of Fish is ‘a non- incorporated grass roots group of Belfast area citizens formed to educate our wider community about the expected economic impact of the NAF project on our lives and thelives of our region.’
 
“Ms. Miller owns property in Belfast and Bayside and obtains waterfrom the Belfast Water District. The petitioners are interested in the expected positive economic impacts of the proposed project including 'local issues such as taxes and also direct and indirect job creation and the effect on related industries and education.' The petition does not include specific contentions regarding the subject matter of the hearing and the relevant review criteria, nor does it indicate what relevant evidence it would bring to the proceeding. The petition also states that expected positive impacts of the proposed projectwould affect ‘all property owners in Belfast and people who get their water from the Belfast Water District.’

“The Board finds that the impact of the proposed project on property taxes and job creation are not matters which may be considered by the Board in its review of Nordic’s applications for environmental permits. The Board also finds that any such impacts would not affect the petitioners differently than the surrounding general population. Accordingly, Ms. Miller and The School of Fish have not shown how they may be substantially and directly affected by the proceeding in areas that are relevant to a review of the proposed project.”
 
Maine & Company
“Petitioner Maine & Company states that it is a ‘nonprofit with a membership comprised of many of Maine’s largest private employers, higher education organizations, utilities, and financial and legal institutions with a mission of generating economic and employment opportunities for communities like Belfast and for the Maine & Company members.’

“Maine & Company argues that its members may be substantially and directly affected due to impacts on the “business, employment and economic opportunities arising from the construction and operation of the NAF facility and the attendant growth of the aquaculture industry in Maine.” The petition does not include specific contentions regarding the subject matter of the hearing and the relevant review criteria.

“The Board finds that Maine & Company’s petition focuses on the potential for the creation of jobs and the benefits of economic development to its members and the Belfast community; however, general economic development and the potential creation of jobs are not review criteria to be considered by the Board in its evaluation of the project. Therefore, Maine & Company has not shown how it may be substantially and directly affected by the proceedingin areas that are relevant to a review of Nordic’s applications.”