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

In the latest skirmish over a land-based salmon farm in Belfast, Maine’s attorney general is asking a court to recognize the validity of a conservation easement that could be a barrier to the project.

Earlier this year the city condemned a property where Nordic Aquafarms wants to install a discharge pipe to Belfast Bay — and then the city granted the company an easement to do so. But in a complaint filed in Waldo Superior Court last week, the attorney general argues that the pre-existing conservation easement, which bars industrial or commercial uses at the site, is still in force.

Amy Grant, president of project opponent Upstream Watch, says it’s an important issue.

“That conservation easement – they absolutely could not put pipes in the ground across an intertidal if that conservation easement remains in effect,” Grant says. “It absolutely bars any development on that land.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean the state is siding with project opponents, though. As Grant herself notes, the attorney general’s complaint also asserts that the conservation easement could indeed be modified or extinguished by a court, as long as the state is party to the proceeding. It’s just one of numerous legal disputes around the project that are slowly making their way through the courts, with some issues expected to end up at the state Supreme Court or even federal court.

In a press statement, a Nordic spokeswoman said that the superior court had already determined that the disputed property is owned by the city.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.