A recent visit by state officials to Belfast to size up the proposed Nordic Aquafarms site included a low-tide walk along a wide stretch of intertidal flats, the ownership of which is the subject of two lawsuits and multiple complaints to state agencies intended to keep the salmon farm from ever being built. After the tour, Paul Bernacki, an opponent, sent an email to an attorney at Maine Department of Environmental Protection, including the tongue-in-cheek comment, “As guests you all behaved quite well.”

Bernacki recently dropped off No Trespassing notices at the Nordic Aquafarms office in Belfast on behalf of Jeffrey Mabee and Judith Grace, who believe they own the intertidal land. Nordic believes it has rights to the land, which it needs to run a pipeline from the salmon farm to the bay, via another property owner, based on the commonsense assumption that waterfront properties include the mud revealed at low tide.

Nordic Aquafarms is going through a permitting process for the salmon farm with the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Bureau of Environmental Protection. The move by Bernacki, acting as agent for Mabee and Grace, to bar trespassing comes at a time when court cases are pending. As such, local law enforcement has been reluctant to pick sides.

Chief Deputy Jason Trundy of the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office has spoken with Bernacki a number of times and said jurisdiction would lie with Belfast Police, but in general he doesn’t think it would be appropriate or constructive for police to get involved now.

“It’s not going to get resolved by Belfast PD going down and arresting someone on the beach,” he said. “That’s not the particular way to do that. I think folks are trying to leverage their positions, but law enforcement has no role in that.”

With most trespassing complaints, he said, there’s not any question of who owns the property. “It’s whether someone is willing to leave it or not,” he said. “Usually it’s an unwelcome visitor sort of thing.”

Belfast Police Deputy Chief Gerald Lincoln said his department hasn’t received a formal complaint about the tidal flats but said it would be an unusual case.

“Usually it’s a border dispute between properties, where we’re not sure as police officer where the boundary is, but until it’s settled in the court we can’t enforce it because we don’t know definitively where it is,” he said. “Generally we leave the burden of proof up to the owner or the person who wants the No Trespass order issued.”

The recent site visit was ostensibly conducted with permission from Mabee and Grace, who forbade Nordic’s surveyor from placing stakes in the flats to mark the location of the pipeline.

Bernacki believes opponents have the only proof of ownership, and while police aren’t intervening now, he believes they would prevent work from beginning until the courts have delivered a ruling.