An employee hand-feeds a tank of adult yellowtails at the Kingfish Zeeland recirculating aquaculture system facility located in the town of Kats on the southwestern coast of the Netherlands. KINGFISH ZEELAND PHOTO

Jonesport fish farm will pump millions of gallons of seawater

JONESPORT – Kingfish Maine, the company that wants to build a technologically advanced, land-based fish farm on the shore of Chandler Bay, held an appropriately technologically advanced public meeting in the Jonesport firehouse last Tuesday to begin the process of applying to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for a Maine Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (MPDES) permit. That is the first of many permits the company will need before workers turn the first shovelful of earth to build the project.

Kingfish Maine, owned by the Netherlands-based Kingfish Company, plans to develop a state-of-the-art recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) facility on some 15-20 acres of a 94-acre waterfront parcel of land about 1 mile east of town at the corner of the Mason Bay Road and Dun Garvin Road. When completed, the estimated $110 million facility would produce some 6,000-8,000 metric tons (about 13.2-17.6 million pounds) annually of high-value yellowtail, also known as Hamachi. It would also, according to the company, produce about $46 million in “added value” to the Downeast economy and create some 70 permanent jobs in Jonesport.

About 25 people were on hand for last week’s 6 p.m. meeting, held to introduce the public to the outlines of the company’s planned discharge permit application, but not all of them were in the firehouse. According to company spokesman Dianna Fletcher, 13 members of the public were present in person while another dozen attended the meeting remotely via Zoom.

Five representatives of Kingfish, including operations managers Meghan and Tom Sorby, were also on hand in Jonesport. The company’s CEO Ohad Maiman and Kees Kloet, the company’s chief operating officer, joined the meeting from the Netherlands, where it was midnight, via Zoom.

The MPDES permit process reviews the company’s plans for eliminating pollutants such as liquid and solid fish waste and unconsumed feed from the water the facility would discharge into Chandler Bay. Kingfish will also need several other permits including a submerged lands lease for its saltwater intake and discharge pipes, a Site Location and Development Act (SLOTA) permit and a Natural Resources Protection Act (NRPA) permit.

Among the issues of concern to the Jonesport community are how the proposed operation might affect water temperatures and water quality in Chandler Bay.

According to a diagram showing the project’s planned water usage, the facility will pump some 28.7 million gallons of seawater through its system of pipes and filters. Of that, about 22.2 million gallons will never come into contact with growing fish but will be used instead to moderate the temperature of the water in the grow-out system using heat exchangers. Another 6.3 million gallons per day will be the “culture water” in which fish grow. That water will be extensively filtered both before it enters the fish tanks and before it is pumped back into Chandler Bay.

The Kingfish plan calls for installation of two 4-foot diameter intake pipes and two discharge pipes of the same size that would run from the facility beneath the intertidal beach at the water’s edge, then along the sea floor. The pipes would be held in place by concrete “yokes.”

The discharge pipes would extend some 2,600 feet offshore, towards Ballast Island. According to the company, water discharged from the facility will be a few degrees cooler than the water drawn into the plant from Chandler Bay through intake pipes about half as long as the discharge pipes.

Since the mouths of the intake pipes will be closer to shore than those of the discharge pipes, Maiman said, it will be critical for the facility to properly cleanse and filter its discharge into Chandler Bay.

“We will be using the same water,” Maiman said.

All suspended solids, fish waste, excess feed and the like, will be collected in the facility and trucked offsite. In the Netherlands, Maiman said, the collected solids are sold for use as fertilizer or to produce biogas.

Once a route for the pipes is determined, Kingfish will conduct a detailed survey so the pipeline can be marked on nautical charts and on the water by buoys visible to fishermen.

“We hope to maintain as much fishing area as possible,” Meghan Sorby told the meeting.

Several audience members, some at the fire station and some online, raised questions about the potential economic impact of the project. One questioner asked if the company planned to develop affordable housing for the 70 employees it anticipated hiring.

“We’re hoping to attract more economic activity by our presence,” Maiman said, but the numbers the company has introduced reflect “just production.” As for additional housing, that is not in the company’s current plans because, Maiman said, it was expected that most employees would already live in the Jonesport area.

Another questioner asked whether the company had considered a “zero-discharge” facility that emitted no waste.

While ideal, Chief Operating Officer Kees Kloet said, “as a commercial enterprise, zero-discharge systems don’t exist yet.”

Kingfish expects to file its MPDES permit application in August. Ideally, Maiman said, construction will begin sometime next year, but that is, to some extent, up to how long it takes to obtain all required permits from the state.

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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