Fish farmers advance aquaculture design

FISHY FACILITIES Marianne Naess, Nordic Aquafarms’ commercial director, describes her company’s aquaculture project design. Photos by Daniel Mintz | Union

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

​HUMBOLDT – The Nordic Aquafarms company has advanced its plans to build a major aquaculture facility on Humboldt Bay and has released designs of its proposed project.

​The company’s managers have also said that the preferred species to be raised at this point is Atlantic salmon, which concerns the fishing industry locally and coastwide.

​The Norway-based Nordic Aquafarms unveiled its project design and answered questions at a March 10 forum at Eureka’s Wharfinger Building. About 25 people were there.

​The project will consist of six buildings on the Samoa Peninsula at the site of the former Louisiana-Pacific pulp mill.

​A first phase will include a smolt raising facility and a 201,000-square-foot fish holding facility. A second phase includes a larger 337,000-square-foot holding facility.

The design features multiple buildings for raising and holding fish.

​Engineers from the local GHD and SHN consulting firms were there and said earthquake, tsunami and sea level rise resistance is a key aspect of project design. 

Elements relevant to that include consecutive placement of buildings to buffer oncoming waters and elevated height of tanks.

​As project designs were projected, David Noyes, Nordic’s vice president of technology, said the land-based facility has multiple barriers against fish escape.

​“We have a series of measures between us and the water to make sure that there’s no interaction between the outside environments and our indoor facilities,” he continued. “This adds up to roughly 12 physical barriers between the fish and the outside water to make sure that we don’t have any co-mingling and escape issues.”

​A wastewater treatment loop includes nitrogen reduction and removal of “a majority” of particulate matter and phosphorous, Noyes said. An “ultra-filtration membrane bio-reactor” can “actually filter out bacteria” and removes 99.9 percent of solids in the water, Noyes continued.

​ He said the process can remove matter “orders of magnitude smaller” than E. coli bacteria.

​Nordic is in the permitting phase of a similar project in Belfast, Maine, which is encountering controversy. But unlike the Maine project, a zoning change isn’t needed for the Humboldt project, the Samoa site is previously-developed and a discharge pipe doesn’t need to be constructed.

​The Humboldt site’s existing outfall pipe extends 1.5 miles into the ocean.

​Controversy is minimal in Humboldt and community support is ramping up, particularly from all tiers of the county’s educational system. Eureka High School, College of the Redwoods and Humboldt State University have had discussions with Nordic’s representatives on how the project and the schools can interface.

​Until now, the company has held off on indicating a preference for the type of fish that will be produced. At the forum, Marianne Naess, Nordic’s commercial director, said it will either be steelhead or Atlantic salmon and the company will “probably apply for both.”

​Since the facility will produce 33,000 metric tons of fish per year, fishing communities coastwide are concerned about saturating the market with farmed salmon that is cheaper than wild-caught.

​The company is leaning toward Atlantic salmon but the intent is to compete against imported salmon.  “I think that commercially, (Atlantic) salmon is an easier choice for marketing our fish and replacing imports,” Naess said.

​She added that the company is meeting with local fishermen and tribal representatives and is in the midst of “market assessments” to firm up a decision.

​“It’s not determined yet but I would say that it’s probably a 40-60 lean toward salmon,” Naess said.

​The Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association will take a stance on the project once a fish species is identified and the project nears permitting.

​The company plans to submit a first round of permit applications this summer. Start of first phase construction is estimated to be at the end of 2021. 

Second phase construction is expected to begin six months to a year after that and the project is expected to be fully built out by2025, with fish marketing starting in 2024.



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