BELFAST – Nordic Aquafarms held the first public meeting after the Belfast City Council made a controversial zoning change approval for the project.
Wednesday night’s meeting was standing room only. The land-based salmon farm company’s CEO, Erik Heim, presented computer-produced renderings of what the facility would look like. The meeting also had a question and answer session where some residents voiced ongoing concerns with the plans.
Heim assured residents that the facility would not be loud, would not smell, and would have greenery around the building to serve as a buffer, so as not to interfere with nearby trails.
He also said the planned 40-acre site in Belfast would not harm the wild salmon population, and the facility could have uses for the local community, like being used for school field trips.
But not everyone present was pleased with the answers Heim gave. People lined the pathway leading into the meeting with anti-salmon farm signs. Some said they had environmental concerns with the company’s plans, including run-off water possibly contaminating local areas.
“They are forever destroying 30 acres of the earth inside of a precious watershed on Penobscot Bay,” said Paul Bernacki, who was against the planned salmon farm. “And when you do that you interfere.”
One woman present said she was open to the new facility and wanted locally sourced food.
“You can’t catch wild salmon in the amount that we need to eat,” said Ann Somers, who lives nearby. “Like they explained, we have to increase the technology.”
Thomas Kittredge, the city’s economic development director, said he supports the project and claims it could add more than 100 jobs.
“Maine is known for seafood raising. We have a long history of that,” said Kittredge. “This is very interesting – the future of how people are going to raise seafood, seafood protein, and so it’s very exciting while still kind of connecting it with the past.”
The next step for Nordic Aquafarms is to submit permit applications to the EPA and to Belfast’s planning board.
The company said it’s CEO will be moving to Maine in October to lead operations in the U.S. A headquarters for those operations will be established in Portland late this summer, according to Nordic Aquafarms.