Artist's rendering of the proposed Nordic Aquafarms land-based salmon facility in Belfast. Credit: Courtesy of Nordic Aquafarms

Officials from Nordic Aquafarms say they remain committed to the land-based salmon farm project they have been pursuing in Belfast for the past two years, even as they advance plans for a similar project in California.

The Norwegian-based aquaculture company has been working toward building a flagship facility near the Little River in Belfast, with a goal of producing 33,000 metric tons of Atlantic salmon every year.

The permitting process in Belfast has been mired with opposition and lawsuits, but that’s not been the case in California, where Nordic Aquafarms is planning to build a sister project that would produce the same output of farm-raised salmon as its Maine operations.

“The permitting process has taken a long time in Maine, and we are not starting ramp-up of the project until after we have received final permits,” Nordic Aquafarms director of commercial operations Marianne Naess said Monday. “Thus, we have the capacity to shift focus to California with some of our Maine resources.”

Despite shifting resources to the California project, Naess said that Nordic Aquafarms is “still committed to Maine and Belfast.”

The Maine Board of Environmental Protection is expected to begin deliberations soon on the issuance of permits for the project, which would be one of the final hurdles for Nordic Aquafarms in Belfast.

Earlier this year at a public hearing, members of the board heard from dozens of people opposed to the project, who claimed it was too big for Belfast and would have too much of an impact on Penobscot Bay.

The Belfast salmon farm would cycle through roughly 1,205 gallons of freshwater per minute from the city’s municipal water supply, groundwater wells and Belfast Reservoir No. 1. An additional 4,000 gallons per minute would be drawn in from an intake pipe placed in Belfast Bay. At that rate, water taken from these sources could fill an Olympic-size pool every 2.5 hours.

As much as 7.7 million gallons per day of wastewater from the farm’s recirculating aquaculture system would be filtered through a five-stage filtering and sterilizing process before eventually being discharged into Penobscot Bay.

When the Board of Environmental Protection reaches a decision on the issuance of permits for the project, Naess said Nordic Aquafarms will be ready to ramp up engineering and construction plans.