PORTLAND — Thursday morning, Sept. 8, attorneys representing the City of Belfast, state government, private citizens and Nordic Aquafarms, Inc., will gather at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland to present oral arguments concerning an appeal filed to the state’s highest court of a 2021 Waldo County Superior Court Belfast salmon farm decision.
Meanwhile, on Sept. 1, Waldo County Superior Court Justice Robert Murray handed down another decision on a related Nordic Aquafarms, Inc. lawsuit, dismissing a request by the nonprofit Upstream Watch for a court review of Belfast city municipal proceedings on the permitting of the aqua farm applications.
The Sept. 8 Maine Supreme Judicial Court hearing on Jeffrey R. Mabee et al. v. Nordic Aquafarms, Inc., et al is scheduled for 10:40 a.m., and can be heard here: courts.maine.gov/courts/sjc/arguments-stream.html
The dispute is over the path of the industrial pipes for Nordic Aquafarms that are to transport water from the indoor salmon plant with discharge into Penobscot Bay.
“At issue in this appeal are (1) the ownership of the intertidal land; (2) the interpretation and enforceability of a restrictive covenant in a deed in the chain of title to the land; and (3) the validity and enforceability of a conservation easement on the land,” according to the court summary.
In 2020, the City of Belfast exercised eminent domain authority in an attempt to provide saltwater pipeline access to the large-scale salmon farm from Penobscot Bay shoreline. The three pipes would run underground and be used for both intake via two smaller pipes, as well as discharge of treated water via one larger pipe.
Opponents to the Nordic plan said that a conservation easement on a swath of intertidal mudflats prevents Nordic from crossing the property with its pipes.
Opponents also have another related case before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court — also referred to as the Law Court — appealing Maine’s Board of Environmental Protection processes when approving state permits for the project. Hearings have yet to be scheduled on that lawsuit.
Upstream is appealing three BEP permits issued in 2020.
Justice Murray dismissal of Upstream Watch petition
On Sept. 1, Justice Robert Murray dismissed the request by Upstream Watch for a court review of the Belfast Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals actions.
Upstream Watch asked Waldo County Superior Court to vacate the ZBA’s refusal to hear an appeal challenging the Belfast Planning Board’s five permits granted to Nordic Aquafarms.
Belfast and Nordic Aquafarms had maintained that Upstream Watch lacked standing for such a court review.
But Justice Murray wrote in his decision that Upstream Watch had failed to present evidence necessary for standing to the ZBA.
“The Court determined that Upstream’s appeal form does not indicate that it or any of its members possess land that is ‘directly or indirectly affected’ by the Planning Board’s decision nor does it indicate that Upstream or any of its members possess land that abuts the land that was subject of the permits,” wrote Murray, in his decision.
The ZBA did not commit an error of law, he said.
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