Judge tells couple to stop filing lawsuits against Maine fish farm project
By Nestor Arellano
A couple opposing the plans of Nordic Aquafarms to build a land-based fish farm in Maine was recently told by a judge to stop filing lawsuits against the $500 million project.
At the heart of the issue is a piece of waterfront property in Belfast, Maine that is vital to the Nordic Aquafarms’ proposed salmon farm, according to the Bangor Daily News.
The company has the option to buy an easement from the owners of the lot, Richard and Janet Eckrote. However, the Eckrote’s neighbours, Jeffrey Mabee and Judith Grace say they own intertidal land in question. Last April, Mabee, and Grace placed the contested property under a conservation easement to protect it from development.
The couple also filed a civil complaint against Nordic Aquafarms and the Eckrotes in July 2019. They asked for a court injunction to stop developers from seeking permits or leases to run industrial pipelines through the land.
Opponents of the project also argue the Eckrotes cannot grant the easement to Nordic. They cited a 1946 deed and other legal documents they believe show the Eckrotes does not actually own the land.
Justice Robert Murray has not yet made a decision on who actually owns the land in question.
However, the judge ruled that Mabee and Grace’s requests were unreasonable. He also dismissed their efforts to prevent the aquaculture company from making statements about the ownership of the land, or from seeking or using permits or leases to use the land.
In his decision, Judge Murray referenced Maine’s anti-Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. The anti-SLAPP statute is used by many states to dismiss meritless and nuisance lawsuits. In a separate ruling, Judge Murray also denied Nordic Aquafarms’ motion to dismiss the ownership case brought by Mabee and Grace.
The judge said the couple couldn’t sue the Eckrotes without adding neighbouring landowners to their lawsuit.