New map of Nordic Aquafarms' planned land purchases in Belfast. The company wants to build a land-based salmon farm there. Credit: Courtesy of Nordic Aquafarms

BELFAST, Maine — Nordic Aquafarms plans to expand its proposed land-based salmon farm in Belfast by about 14 acres, the company said.

This expansion is due to a new purchase-and-sale agreement with Belfast window manufacturer Mathews Bros. for land that is adjoining the 40 acres that Nordic already has under contract with the Belfast Water District. The land-based fish farm proposal, announced last winter, has been under fire by people who oppose it due to environmental and other concerns.

“The additional land will make this a better project, not a bigger one,” Eric Heim, the chief executive officer of the Norwegian company, said in a media release issued Tuesday.

But news of the proposed expansion struck opponents very differently.

“I’m speechless,” said Ellie Daniels, who lives close to the project and who has filed a lawsuit against the city in connection with the proposed fish farm. “This is devastating news. … We’re no longer just talking about a couple of houses behind the tree line. Now we’re talking about the whole south side of Perkins Road over to Outer Congress being intruded upon by this massive industrial fish farm.”

If built as proposed, Nordic Aquafarms would construct one of the world’s largest indoor salmon farms in Belfast and produce 33,000 tons of Atlantic salmon per year there. Supporters tout the jobs, tax revenue and efficient protein that they believe the project would create. But opponents believe the project is too big and the technology too uncertain for Belfast.

They fear that a fish farm would use too much water, generate too much discharge and generally degrade the environment. Outspoken opponents have been coming to city council and planning board meetings in an effort to fight against the project, and especially have decried an April decision by the Belfast City Council to approve zoning ordinance changes that would allow Nordic to begin submitting applications.

The additional land allows the company to increase the buffer zone between the project, the dam at the Little River lower reservoir and the existing Little River trails, the company said.

“Mounds with planted trees will surround the northern and eastern borders of the additional property as a buffer. The entire facility is to be buffered with trees,” the release stated.

The company plans to hold its first public meeting of the permitting process in late September in Belfast, with details to be specified next week. At that meeting, Nordic will present figures about after-treatment discharge amounts and information about how that discharge will be treated.

Additional announcements related to permits and hearings will be made in the next couple of months, the company said.

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