West Coast
Nordic Aquafarms received a regional water board OK on wastewater discharge for the Samoa-based fish farm project. (County of Humboldt/Contributed)

CA - Regional water board OKs Nordic Aquafarms permit

A permit for Nordic Aquafarms was unanimously approved by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, with some amendments, in a meeting Thursday in Eureka.

This permit, surrounding wastewater discharge of the project, is one of the requirements the project needs to meet to build a fish farm project on the abandoned pump mill site in Samoa.

There was some back and forth between staff and the board — board members were hesitant to approve the permit, noting a lack of data and concerns brought up during public comment. Chair Hector Bedolla began the discussion with a call to eschew politics and make decisions based on the available science.

Board members were operating under the pressure of the California Coastal Commission, which reportedly wanted the board to approve the permit before they made a determination on the project, according to Justin McSmith, a state water board engineer.

“I don’t like being told by another agency that they’re gonna hide behind us before they make a decision,” said Gregory Giusti, vice chair of the water board. He said that while he doesn’t want to kick the can down the road, the project had too many points for him to feel comfortable approving the permit during the meeting, saying the permit was brought to the board prematurely. He later voted in favor, with a moment of hesitation.

While the most recent draft of the permit was updated with the major changes the company announced earlier this year, the board heard a number of concerned comments from the public, especially involving water intake and discharge.

“The hope is to give them as many things as we can, as are feasible and reasonable,” said David Noyes, an executive of the company.

Nordic agreed at the meeting to increase monitoring from weekly to every weekday after concern was noted from environmental advocates.

Multiple public commenters brought up the lack of a full antidegradation analysis that regulates water quality. Carla Avila-Martinez, from advocacy group Surfrider Humboldt, asked for the analysis to keep water quality high. McSmith, on the other hand, said they’ve met antidegradation requirements as necessary.

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