Courtesy of Entire Oceans | BDN
By Abigail Curtis and Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Employees •
December eight, 2018 1:00 am
Belfast and Bucksport are separated by simply 24 miles, and each are intently related to the Penobscot River and Penobscot Bay.
However you’d by no means know that from the very totally different means that two proposals for giant, land-based salmon farms have been acquired by members of their respective communities over the previous yr.
In Belfast, opposition to Nordic Aquafarms’ proposed $150 million salmon farm is fierce and outspoken, and it appeared to start virtually instantly after the Norwegian firm introduced its plans on the finish of January to develop a parcel of land by the Little River.
[Plan for giant Maine salmon farm spurs questions about water pollution, fish guts]
In Bucksport, there’s nearly no vocal opposition as Entire Oceans works on constructing its personal $250 million indoor aquaculture facility on the location of the previous Verso paper mill. Many appear optimistic concerning the position the salmon farm might play in the city.
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
On the floor, it’s no nice shock that the 2 communities would react so in a different way to those comparable proposals.
Bucksport just lately misplaced its paper mill and residents have been working exhausting to reinvent their industrial city, with some notable successes in the type of new seafood processing amenities and a maritime coaching facility in the works on a part of the previous mill website.
Belfast, however, is in a interval of relative financial prosperity, and people who oppose the undertaking don’t assume the promise of jobs and funding is well worth the potential environmental worth.
[Nordic skeptics, supporters come out for ‘community dialogue’ about controversial fish farm]
The Bucksport fish farm can be constructed on the previous mill website in an industrial zone, whereas the Belfast farm is slated for a beforehand undeveloped website situated comparatively near houses and a well-loved leisure path.
Courtesy of Metropolis of Belfast
“I think it has to do with a point in each town’s history,” stated Steve Ryan, government director of the Belfast Space Chamber of Commerce. “Right now, things are really good in Belfast, and there’s no need to take any given proposal, especially one that’s so outside the box. [The salmon farm] is so big. It’s so innovative. It’s such new technology. All these things have rattled Belfast.”
‘A stake through the heart’
In Bucksport, phrases resembling “big,” “innovative” and “new” haven’t alarmed residents almost as a lot.
[Bucksport has dozens of ideas to consider for revitalizing its mill site]
At the least formally, they haven’t provided a phrase towards the $250 million proposed farm from Entire Oceans, stated Gregg Wooden of the Maine Division of Environmental Safety’s Bureau of Land and Water High quality, who has dealt with public feedback the DEP has acquired about each salmon farms as a part of the company’s allowing evaluations.
Actually, the one public feedback the DEP acquired opposing the Bucksport undertaking got here from two Belfast residents and one Belfast native, based on filings Wooden launched to the Bangor Daily News. These three feedback have been amongst eight complete the DEP acquired concerning the proposed Bucksport salmon farm.
Courtesy of John Gutwin of Pepperchrome
The Belfast undertaking, Wooden stated, has generated greater than 70 feedback that DEP officers decide substantial — many from residents and most crucial of it.
[Belfast gets its first hint at how proposed salmon farm could affect bay]
“There was little to no opposition to the one in Bucksport,” Wooden stated. “There was quite a bit of opposition to the one in Belfast.”
Bucksport City Supervisor Susan Lessard expressed her dismay about these oppositional voices from Belfast final month in an opinion piece in Belfast’s Republican Journal newspaper.
“[Some comments] appear to be simply attempts to kill this project and the Nordic Aquafarms project in Belfast,” she wrote. “It is depressing and frustrating that this community, which is working so hard on a bright future, could be held hostage by those with no connection to here, who, armed with little credible information, seek to drive a stake through the heart of an industry that could have so many positive impacts for the future of Maine.”
[Fish farm foes make a late splash in Belfast city council race]
Abigail Curtis | BDN
‘No false pretenses’
The variations between the 2 communities may merely come right down to this — Bucksport misplaced a paper mill and Belfast didn’t, stated Peter Stewart, a member of the Bucksport City Council.
Whereas Bucksport’s loss wasn’t precisely sudden, the social and financial shock of the December 2014 shutdown of the Verso paper mill — with 570 staff, the city’s largest single employer — was profound, Stewart stated.
Gabor Degre | BDN
And if there have been any doubt that 84 years of papermaking in city had come to an finish, the truth that a scrap metallic recycling agency purchased the 250-acre mill website confirmed it for even probably the most gung-ho mill supporters, he stated. The millworkers’ union sued to cease the acquisition by American Iron and Metallic of East Montreal, Quebec, however that effort failed.
[A new tenant is in the works at the former Bucksport mill]
“We lost it at the right time,” Stewart stated. Whereas a lot of cities noticed repeated restart makes an attempt at their mills, “We kind of figured almost immediately that it was done.”
“There were no false pretenses,” stated John Paul LaLonde, a member of Bucksport’s Group and Financial Improvement Committee. The Verso mill “had a very quick death rather than a slow death.”
And in contrast to some of Maine’s different mill cities, Bucksport began attacking the lack of its main employer methodically quickly after the closure, and people efforts have continued. City leaders began holding conferences addressing the city’s future a month after the paper mill closed.
[Two years after mill closure, Bucksport presses on in redefining itself]
Final month, it launched a 121-page report with greater than 70 concepts or concrete plans to reshape the Bucksport financial system. It placed on paper quite a lot of redevelopment avenues the city was already pursuing.
Gabor Degre | BDN
Entire Oceans’ plans for the mill website are an enormous a part of it. Though the predictions are preliminary, LaLonde stated he believes that when it’s working absolutely, the salmon farm will exchange about two-thirds of the property tax funds the city acquired from the paper mill.
“I don’t see any problems with this,” LaLonde stated. “I think of this as just the repurposing of a site.”
[Town approves permit to demolish Bucksport mill]
Entire Oceans spokeswoman Angie Helton declined to take a position on what revenues Bucksport may get from her shopper.
‘They’ve moved to Nirvana’
It hasn’t been that lengthy since Belfast was contending with exhausting occasions of its personal, in line with Metropolis Councilor Mike Hurley, a supporter of the salmon farm.
In current many years, Belfast has needed to reinvent itself quite a few occasions, together with in the 1980s, after the hen and sardine processing industries moved out, and in the mid-2000s, after international bank card big MBNA bought its holdings.
[Belfast: Toughing out tough times]
Even simply 10 years in the past, Hurley was disturbed sufficient by the empty downtown storefronts that he ran for metropolis council on an financial improvement platform. Metropolis leaders are proud immediately of Belfast’s diversified financial system, which incorporates small mom-and-pop shops and company companies, and which has been hailed as a regional success story.
“The opponents of the fish farm, unfortunately, many of them have never seen Belfast when it wasn’t healthy,” Hurley stated. “These are all retiring baby boomers that think they’ve moved to Nirvana, and they don’t get it.”
Linda Buckmaster, who’s a part of Native Residents for SMART Progress: Salmon Farm, a Belfast opposition group that just lately obtained nonprofit standing, disagrees. The resistance to Nordic Aquafarms occurred as a result of individuals in the group are involved about potential destructive environmental results, she stated, not as a result of they’re retirees.
[Here’s an early look at what a giant Belfast salmon farm could look like]
“The people who are resisting the fish farm are a wide variety in terms of their backgrounds and what they want,” she stated. “Belfast has all these regulations that are very, very advanced and pro-environment that I suspect they don’t have in Bucksport … the fish farm just doesn’t fit into the picture. I call it a cognitive dissonance.”
Abigail Curtis | BDN
Whereas opposition to the salmon farm has been loud, it is very important word it has its limits. Three outspoken salmon farm foes ran for the Belfast Metropolis Council this fall, and all three misplaced.
[Salmon farm foes all lose council races in Belfast]
So far as why opposition is louder in Belfast, Buckmaster stated it is perhaps a matter of the individuals who occur to reside in every place.
“Waldo County in general has been settled by a bunch of old activists, who are ready to get involved and know how to get involved,” she stated.
‘It’s not over but’
Thus far, Entire Oceans is shifting a bit extra shortly via the allowing course of than Nordic Aquafarms.
[Verso mill in Bucksport to close by year’s end, 570 employees to lose jobs]
Entire Oceans acquired its wastewater discharge allow from the state Nov. 21. LaLonde and Richard Rotella, Bucksport’s financial improvement director, stated they anticipate the corporate to shut on the deal to maneuver onto the Verso website when the 30-day attraction interval on the allow ends later this month.
Entire Oceans has eight permits left to safe. They embrace a amenities allow from the state Division of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry; a salmon egg import allow from the Maine Division of Marine Assets; and a common development allow from the DEP, Helton stated.
Courtesy of Nordic Aquafarms
Bucksport officers are reviewing Entire Oceans’ purposes for constructing, shoreline zoning, sewer use and entrance permits, and a federal salmon egg allow is pending as nicely, Helton stated.
[‘The denial stage is over’: Papermaking machines shutting down as Bucksport mill prepares to shut]
Entire Oceans officers will give the Bucksport City Council an replace at a Dec. 13 assembly, Rotella stated.
Nordic Aquafarms is anticipating to get a draft discharge allow again from the state “any day now,” in response to spokesman Ted O’Meara. The corporate expects to start out submitting different allow purposes early subsequent yr.
“Things are moving forward very deliberately,” he stated.
[Belfast salmon farm clears first hurdle regardless of pleas to ‘slow down’]
In the meantime, the sometimes-existential, often-heated debate over Nordic Aquafarms is more likely to rage on.
“It’s not over yet,” Buckmaster stated.