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January 14, 2019

Nordic Aquafarms, Belfast Water District reveal plan to protect 80 acres

Courtesy / SalmonBusiness Erik Heim, president of Nordic Aquafarms Inc., announced over the weekend that the company has reached a plan with the Belfast Water District to forever preserve 80 acres of undeveloped land around the Little River upper reservoir in Belfast. Nordic Aquafarms is planning a $150 million Phase 1 investment to create a land-based salmon farm in Belfast.

Nordic Aquafarms Inc. and the Belfast Water District announced they’ve reached a plan to forever preserve approximately 80 acres of undeveloped land around the Little River upper reservoir off of Herrick Road in Belfast.

The plan will be presented to Belfast City Council at its regular meeting Tuesday night.

In a news release sent to Mainebiz over the weekend, Nordic Aquafarms stated that while details remain to be worked out, the preliminary plan calls for the city of Belfast to acquire the property, subject to a deed restriction prohibiting any development on the property, including any commercial use of its water resources. The ultimate plan is to transfer the property to a land trust, said the company that’s proposing to build a land-based salmon farm in Belfast.

Nordic Aquafarms reported that the water district would sell the land to the City of Belfast at a reduced cost — with Nordic Aquafarms donating the funds for the purchase and habitat restoration.

The city also would take ownership of the lower portion of the Little River trail. The conservation of the upper reservoir land would guarantee that approximately 2.8 miles of the overall Little River trail system along the river are permanently protected, the company stated.

“We are committed to being a good neighbor and responsible member of the community,” said Erik Heim, president of Nordic Aquafarms Inc. “We appreciate the efforts of Joanne Moesswilde, who initiated discussions with us about preserving this land, as well as city and water district officials who have discussed the framework of a long-term plan for the property.”

Belfast City Manager Joe Slocum will present the concept plan at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

The Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition currently maintains the Little River trail and is expected to continue doing so. The city is consulting with Coastal Mountains Land Trust to explore options and plans for the longer-term ownership, management and maintenance of the newly acquired land around the upper reservoir land for the benefit of the public.

Heim said that one of the first considerations is an engineering study to ensure the safety of the upper dam. A preliminary evaluation has indicated that lowering the level of the dam is likely the best way to ensure its structural integrity.

“There are still many details to work through, but everyone involved is committed to preserving this land in perpetuity for all to enjoy,” said Heim. “I am confident that all of the pieces will fall into place in the months ahead.”

Donation contingent on regulatory approvals

Nordic Aquafarms has an existing option on 40 acres near the Little River lower dam, where it plans to build a land-based salmon farm.

The purchase price for the additional upper reservoir land will made public as the plan progresses. Nordic’s donation of the funds needed for the purchase of this additional land around the upper reservoir is contingent upon the company receiving all necessary approvals for construction and operation of its salmon farm, according to the news release.

Last January, Nordic Aquafarms Inc., the company’s U.S. subsidiary, announced plans for a land-based salmon farm in Belfast to be built in two phases.

Phase 1 — an estimated $150 million investment involving a facility with a capacity of some 16,000 tons and the creation of 60 jobs — is currently being designed in Norway. Construction is expected to start in 2019, with operations expected to begin in 2020. The facility will be an end-to-end operation, including hatcheries and fish processing.

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