Belfast declares eminent domain in attempt to resolve $500m fish farm wrangle

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Legal move by Maine city could provide basis for Nordic Aquafarms to go ahead with plans for new land-based salmon farm.

On Tuesday night, Belfast officials voted unanimously to pursue eminent domain over a disputed strip of intertidal land – the subject of a protracted legal battle. The action seeks to clear the contested deed on the property.

According to the Bangor Daily News, the city will now issue notices to those with a claim on the 2.73 acre property, letting them know of the intent to take it by eminent domain.

If the action is successful, it will allow Nordic Aquafarms to move forward with plans to build a new $500m land-based salmon farm on land now owned by the water district.

Nordic Aquafarms already runs a small salmon Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) in Fredrikstad, Norway, and grows yellowtail kingfish in a RAS in northern Denmark.

The gift of the contested property to the city last month, by the Norwegian-owned aquaculture company, was made in exchange for a permanent easement that will allow the proposed fish farm to bring its intake and outflow pipes to Penobscot Bay.

In a 2018 agreement between the city, the Belfast Water District and Nordic Aquafarms, it was agreed that in exchange for an easement, the aquaculture company would provide the city with land to be used for recreation and the water district with a significant new revenue stream.

By selling water to the company, the water district would have enough money to upgrade its aging infrastructure, bring a new well online and keep the costs to ratepayers at a minimum. The proposed salmon farm would also bring tax revenue and new jobs to the city.

Nevertheless, the scheme remains controversial, with many sceptical about the creation of a new oceanfront park. Further litigation is expected as rifts within the community deepen.