Wednesday, 21 February 2018 23:23

Belfast residents voice concerns over proposed salmon farm Featured

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BELFAST - Three weeks ago, a Norwegian company announced it would be building a major land-based fish farm in Belfast.

The plan was both welcomed and criticized by residents of the coastal Maine city.

"I'm very excited if this does pan out," said one concerned resident at a public information session Wednesday night.

Well over 150 concerned residents packed into the Hutchinson Center in Belfast Wednesday night to voice their concerns about a proposed land-based salmon farm.

"It's certainly big news and I think people want to know how, in any way it could impact [them], and maybe it doesn't impact them at all, maybe it does," said Thomas Kittredge, economic development director for the city of Belfast. "This is an opportunity to know sooner rather than later what this project entails."

In January, Nordic Aquafarms announced a plan to build the world's largest land-based salmon farm in the coastal Maine city, boasting dozens of new jobs and millions in investments in the first phase of the project alone.

Wednesday, the Norwegian company and city officials held a public information session about the proposed project.

"We're going to share a little bit more information about who we are as a company, what land-based farming is and what it is not, why we chose Belfast and what's we're doing going forward," said Erik Heim, CEO of Nordic Aquafarms.

Heim says his company is focused on transparency, including explaining how the new approach to seafood production works.

Dozens of residents responded to the presentation with hands in the air, asking questions about traffic control, the impact on hiking trails, and sustainability.

"What does sustainable mean?" asked one concerned resident during the public forum. "Sustainable for you, the company, to continue, or sustainable for the future generations of Maine?"

"There are people saying, 'Fish farms? No, no, natural!' and I respect that. And so tonight, like I said, is a plan to figure out what's really going on here," said Ronald Huber, executive director of Friends of Penobscot Bay.

Heim says his company still needs to iron out details, like permitting, before a plan is cemented in place.

"So all this we're going to be assessing in the next few months, until we complete our assessments here, and then we give it a green light or a red light, depending on what the outcome is," said Heim.

Kayla Fish

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Kayla joined the ABC 7 & FOX 22 news team in May of 2017. She got into journalism because she loves talking with people, and she's incredibly grateful to share the stories of Mainers throughout the region.

She got her start in broadcasting way back in middle school as a member of a morning announcements TV broadcast club, and her love for the news industry took off from there.

Kayla graduated from Penn State University in 2017 with degrees in broadcast journalism and Spanish. During her time as a student at Penn State, Kayla was an executive producer and reporter for the "Centre County Report", an Emmy award-winning student-run newscast. She studied abroad in Ronda, Spain and traveled to Panama with an international reporting class. Kayla kept busy in college, spending four years working as a student manager in the dining hall.

Kayla grew up in the village of Shawnee-on-Delaware, located in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, so transitioning into life in Vacationland was a piece of cake! A self-described winter fanatic, she loves all things snow related, including hitting the slopes on her snowboard. She also likes hiking, kayaking or doing anything outdoors. She loves meeting new people so if you see her around, be sure to stop and say hi!