In response to Chamber of Commerce executive director Steve Ryan’s letter in our local newspapers recently I would like to add a few points that also need consideration.

Mr. Ryan’s letter opens with a statement that there has been passionate debate over the proposed Nordic Aquafarms (NAF) development along the Little River. This is certainly true, however the statement makes it seem that this debate has been going on from the very beginning of the process. In fact there were no public hearings before putting the land under contract. The State Public Utilities Commission (PUC) requires a public process that includes a hearing and then an eight-month waiting period to allow for ample public participation. The hearing was held in March, and then the City petitioned the PUC to waive the eight-month public process period in order to meet the terms of the contract with Nordic. However, State Statute mandates that any significant changes to the Comprehensive Plan must begin with study and recommendations from a planning committee, and ample opportunity for public information and input. Then the planning committee makes recommendations for any zoning amendments that might be made in order to conform with the Comprehensive Plan. All of this was bypassed by the City Council. Now the City is in the difficult position of backtracking by having the Planning Board do what, by statute, it needed to do last spring. Better late than never I suppose, but this still does not address the lack of citizen input. In addition, the Comprehensive Plan was amended after the zoning, which is completely out of order, and without planning committee or citizen input. This is not how true democracy is meant to work.

With respect to another point, I do agree with Mr. Ryan that it is unreasonable to have companies prove that they will have a “sustainable and sufficient market 30 years from now.” No one can predict the future. However, Hannaford, Bank of America, Athena Health, The Green Store, Reny’s and other businesses mentioned in Mr. Ryan’s letter by way of comparison are apples. NAF is an orange. No Belfast businesses are taking millions of gallons of water from an aquifer that really ought to either belong to everyone or no one. Nor are any businesses producing an effluent that NAF says it will produce and none are dumping into the bay.

Given the vastly different nature of this salmon farm, the unproven, at this scale, technology involved and the unknown effects of nitrogen and phosphorous at the levels currently estimated on all forms of marine life require different standards. The withdrawal of millions of gallons from the aquifer and the destruction of a pristine forest which has been enjoyed by generations of citizens and wildlife also needs different standards.

NAF estimates they will produce 30,000 tons of salmon per year. That is a lot of fish. Most tractor trailer trucks can haul 20 tons per load. It would take 1,500 tractor trailers to move that much product to shipping ports or directly to markets. Of course the shipments would be spread out over time, but still, more traffic means more noise and air pollution and more accidents. That is a statistical reality.

The long-term effects of this project are unknown. Therefore it seems reasonable to say that the “well established” criteria Mr. Ryan refers to may not be enough. Nothing like what NAF is proposing has ever been done before.

Contriving new criteria as Mr. Ryan suggests some people are doing is not the point. To err on the side of caution is wise. To consider different and perhaps higher standards is prudent. To care about the bay, the land and all that is supported by these resources is honorable.

Exercising the right to object, oppose, protest and modify, or even prevent, by legal means, any project that carries with it so many unknowns is not only a right but an obligation of those who believe in a just democracy.

John G. Pincince, Lincolnville