End of the line? U-turn by city council casts $500 million land-based salmon farm into doubt

Editorial Staff

Belfast City reverses decision on land seizure, jeopardizing $500 million land-based salmon farm project.

On Tuesday, Belfast City Council in Maine voted 4-1 to reverse a 2021 eminent domain order that had secured a parcel of mud flats for the construction of a controversial $500 million land-based salmon farm by Nordic Aquafarms.

The reversal comes after a Waldo County Superior Court ruling in February 2023 determined that the land in question rightfully belongs to a neighboring couple opposed to the project.

The Norwegian developer, Nordic Aquafarms, has been planning the salmon farm, touted to be one of the largest in the world, for five years. The project was intended to economically benefit the city of Belfast by creating jobs and was also expected to include the creation of a public park. However, the future of the project is now uncertain, as the court ordered the city council to reconsider its decision in light of the recent legal ruling.

The proposed facility, which would pump water in and out of Penobscot Bay through pipes installed on the disputed land, has faced significant opposition from conservationists and local residents. Critics argue that the farm would pollute the bay, strain local infrastructure, and infringe on conservation easement rights. The conservation group Friends of Harriet L. Hartley Conservation Area and Upstream Watch have been particularly vocal, taking legal action to halt the development.

Following the city council’s vote, Andrew Stevenson, spokesperson for the Friends of Harriet L. Hartley Conservation Area, hailed the decision as a critical step in resolving community divisions exacerbated by the farm’s proposal in January 2018. The project remains entangled in legal battles, with recent court rulings and state agency actions suspending permits and rescinding leases pending proof of Nordic’s legal right to use the land.

The council plans to finalize the reversal in a written order in May.


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