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Nordic Aquafarms gets conditional water discharge clearance for California facility

November 23, 2023  By  Nestor Arellano

The site of Nordic Aquafarms' planned RAS facility in Humboldt County. (Image: Nordic Aquafarms

The California Coastal Commission has unanimously approved with special conditions, a permit sought by Nordic Aquafarms for discharging wastewater from its planned land-based fish farm in Humboldt Bay.

“The proposed discharge has the potential to adversely affect several coastal resources, including water quality and fisheries,” a report by the commission said. “However, a review of available information by Commission staff indicates that such effects would be unlikely.”

Nordic Aquafarms proposes to discharge up to 10.3 million gallons per day of tertiary treated wastewater from its land-based fish farm located at the site of a former pulp mill at the Samoa Peninsula, in Humboldt.

The company initially planned to raise salmon in the recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) facility. However, in April 2023, Nordic Aquafarms announced that it was switching to yellowtail kingfish.

While the commission unanimously approved the permit, the commission’s report also noted that “harmful algal blooms could adversely impact coastal fisheries, require commercial or recreational fishery closures, and/or reduce water-based recreational activities.”

The commission provided special conditions to ensure the proposed project would not adversely affect water quality or coastal fisheries.

The conditions included:

  • A requirement for Nordic Aquafarms to submit the findings of the monitoring programs, reports, and surveys to the executive director for review after five years.
  • If the executive director determines that the discharge has caused any significant adverse environmental impacts or contributed to the occurrence of harmful algal blooms,Nordic Aquafarms is required to promptly submit an application for a coastal development permit (CDP) amendment that includes a plan to address all prior or future significant impacts.
  • Nordic Aquafarms is also required to conduct a comparative evaluation of indigenous biota in the vicinity of the outfall at least two times during the months of February, March and April and at least two times during the months of July, August, and September to confirm that the discharge does not cause adverse impacts to natural ecological productivity.

The company is also required to provide updated shear stress mortality analysis to plankton (from the force and velocity of the discharge).

If that analysis reveals that the discharge is causing significant entrainment impacts to plankton, Nordic Aquafarms must submit a CDP amendment with a plan to modify the discharge and/or to mitigate impacts.

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