A Maine Superior Court ruled today opponents to Nordic Aquafarms' massive land-based salmon project in the state possess no land ownership rights impacting Nordic’s project, and that their alleged conservation easement does not exist over the Norway-based company's project area.
The ruling clears at least one major hurdle for the company: the court case has prevented Nordic Aquafarms from moving forward with construction due to uncertainty surrounding its outcome.
In August, the Maine City Council of Belfast voted 5-0 to exercise eminent domain, which allowed the city to take over ownership of the property. Nordic received the last permit necessary to proceed with the construction of its 33,000 metric-ton facility on Aug. 9.
However, the city could not move forward with eminent domain, as state officials said they needed to wait on the outcome of the court's decision.
Maine Attorney General Lauren Parker responded to the City Belfast's request that her office "not initiate any action" preventing it from exercising eminent domain by saying that "only a court may terminate that conservation easement," citing the property rights case.
Nordic is now banking on this being the necessary court decision to finally get the land-based salmon farm into the construction phase.
“We are very pleased with both the win on every property count and with the court’s unassailable reasoning in this extremely clear decision,” Erik Heim, president of Nordic Aquafarms Inc., said in a statement.
“Nordic Aquafarms obtained every permit for the Maine project and, with this ruling, can proceed to final Maine project planning."
The intertidal dispute involved Maine landowners Mabee and Grace, who filed a lawsuit in 2019 against Nordic based on language from the 1946 deed of the land's former owner, Harriet Hartley. The deed states no businesses for profit are to be conducted on the land unless agreed to by Hartley, her heirs or designated individuals.
Nordic has already obtained approval from Hartley's heirs, but the landowners created a conservation easement for the disputed intertidal land, naming it the Harriet L. Hartley Conservation Area.
While this lawsuit has been resolved, another one remains pending in the state.
The same Nordic opponents have filed another lawsuit against the City of Belfast over its use of eminent domain to take over the property. That case remains in adjudication.