Nordic Aquafarms Takes Closer Look at Samoa Plan – Times-Standard
Norwegian seafood company Nordic Aquafarms announced this week that it will pursue an environmental impact report (EIR) for its proposed land-based fish farm on the Samoa Peninsula in response to calls for further environmental analysis.
“I think it’s better for Nordic and better for the community to have a frank and open discussion about the project and the potential impacts,” said Marianne Naess, Commercial Director of Nordic Aquafarms. “I think it gives us the opportunity to move forward as a better partner in the community.”
The Humboldt County Planning and Construction Department issued a Mitigated Negative Statement (MND) for the project last month, but a coalition of environmental groups argued the assessment did not go far enough.
“An EIR is necessary to achieve the California Environmental Quality Act’s goal of soliciting input from an engaged population, thereby improving projects by democratizing decision-making,” the coalition wrote in a May 24 letter to county. “An (EIR) is required whenever there is substantial evidence on file that supports a ‘fair argument’ that significant impacts may occur, even though there is other substantial evidence that supports that. no significant impact can occur.
The letter described several main concerns associated with the project, including greenhouse gas emissions from refrigerants and fluorinated gases, energy consumption, fish feed, disposal of fish waste, use of water and transport impacts.
What is the difference between an MND and an EIR? According to John Ford, Director of Planning and Construction for Humboldt County, an MND is prepared when there are “potentially significant environmental impacts that can be mitigated to a less than significant level” while an EIR is prepared when potentially significant impacts “cannot be mitigated. at a less than significant level. “
“Many don’t realize the amount of study that’s involved in both processes,” Ford said. “An MND or an EIR is only valid for the technical information used to make these determinations. For a project like Nordic, the background studies between an MND and an EIR are only different in their conclusions (potentially significant or less than significant impacts.) ”
Ford noted that the EIR process takes longer and includes a notice of readiness, a 30-day public review period that includes public scoping meetings, as well as a 45-60 day public review period. the draft of the EIR while the public review of the MND is only 30 days. The final RIA also includes responses to comments made on the draft RIA.
Nordic plans to submit its draft RIA for review in July.
“I think the technical information used to prepare the Nordic MND is adequate and the conclusions on the MND are adequate,” said Ford. “The EIR will deal with some new elements related to seawater intake and provide the public with a more deliberate process of participation. Currently and under the circumstances, preparing for an EIR is the best decision. “
The coalition couldn’t agree more. Jennifer Kalt, director of Humboldt Baykeeper, said Nordic should have pursued an EIR in the first place.
“Such a massive project is not something where shortcuts can be taken in the environmental review process and we appreciate their willingness to go directly into the draft EIR process rather than pushing it through the process (MND ) and see how it goes, ”Kalt mentioned. “I think it saves everyone a lot of time and effort by agreeing to do the draft EIR right away.”
Naess said Nordic is not trying to take a shortcut by preparing an MND instead of an EIR.
“Doing MND was seen as the right and proper technical process, but, you know, the process is important,” Naess said. “Make sure we’re a good partner because we’re there for the long haul, so we want to make sure we’re a good partner for the community.”
Kalt also expressed concern about the provenance of Nordic fish feed.
“They’re going to produce 73 million pounds of salmon fillets per year and if they feed a very low ratio like 1.5 to a pound of fish produced, that’s a lot of fish to harvest from the ocean,” said Kalt. “Will this be done in a sustainable way? Because these fish are generally not protected by the same type of laws, regulations and protections for commercial species. “
Naess said Nordic has yet to select a producer to feed its Atlantic salmon, but shared a detailed list of requirements the producer should meet, such as non-GMO ingredients and fishery by-products. of consumption. Nordic will also require suppliers to have a monitoring program for environmental contaminants in the foods they produce, she said.
Delia Bense-Kang, campaign coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation, said Nordic’s decision to seek an EIR demonstrates “a commitment to the local community and a rigorous environmental review.”
“This project is unlike anything seen before in Humboldt County – or even in the state of California. A project of this size and scope should, without a doubt, include meaningful public participation to help identify both the potential damage from the project and the mitigation measures that may be needed, ”she said. told The Times-Standard. “The Humboldt Bay area is home to an informed and diverse community that cares deeply about our coast and the ocean and whose knowledge can – and should – inform how this project progresses.
Bense-Kang said it would be great to see Samoa’s former pulp mill cleaned up, but said the project also had a number of concerns, “including the potential impacts on the marine environment of the release. ocean and bay outlet, how much energy the operation will require, and how the dramatic increase in manpower and marine traffic could affect residents and recreation enthusiasts of the peninsula. “
Speaking on behalf of 350 Humboldt, a grassroots climate action group, Daniel Chandler raised concerns about greenhouse gas emissions.
“The aquafarm is a very large project, using a lot of electricity. So our main concern is that this electricity comes from clean, renewable sources rather than using PG&E, which currently comes about 60% from gas plants, ”Chandler told The Times-Standard. “Fortunately, the Redwood Coast Energy Authority can only supply energy from renewable energies.”
Naess said Nordic plans to install 16 acres of solar panels on site.
“We use a lot of energy, but keep in mind that this facility only uses electricity, not fossil fuels,” she said. “We have a back-up generator because we’re dealing with live animals, so in the event of a shutdown we have to be able to power the facility, but in normal operation we don’t use fossil fuels. .. Our goal is to be 100% carbon free, but we must also use whatever is available here in California.
Tom Wheeler, executive director of the Environmental Protection and Information Center, said he was following the project closely.
“We are happy that Nordic has agreed to do a more in-depth environmental analysis, as we believe that this is justified here, given that this is a fairly new technology and a fairly significant development and which has the potential for significant environmental impacts, ”said Wheeler. “We appreciate the fact that Nordic and the county are making progress in developing an EIR and look forward to reviewing it later, but we have not taken a position against or in favor of the project.”
Wheeler shared many of the concerns previously mentioned by other members of the coalition, but highlighted the potential for the community to benefit from the project.
“The project site will have to be cleaned up as part of the aquafarm, it’s fantastic,” he said. “I think this project is more nuanced and more complex than people might think at first glance. There are certainly issues that concern us, such as energy consumption, raw materials, truck traffic, etc., but there are also potential benefits. We need to look at the whole project together to understand our group’s position on this.
“We are doing everything we can to be as sustainable as possible,” Naess said. “I think it’s important to have a good in-depth dialogue and to understand that we are doing all we can to be a good partner and have a low environmental footprint.”
Northern Community Liaison Lynette Mullen encouraged community members to send their concerns or inquiries about the project to [email protected]