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BELFAST, Maine — Town officials in Maine have voted to approve a planned inland salmon farm.

The Belfast City Council unanimously approved zoning changes Tuesday, allowing the Norwegian firm Nordic Aquafarms to move forward with planning the farm.

The 40-acre salmon farm would be capable of producing more than 60 million pounds of fish per year. Nordic Farms says the facility could cost up to $500 million.

Residents have raised concerns about noise and water usage.

Giant Maine Indoor Salmon Farm Approaches First Obstacle

Apr 15, 2018
City of Belfast

A Norwegian company planning one of the world’s largest indoor fish farms in Belfast faces its first significant hurdle on Tuesday, as city councilors decide whether to change the zoning at its proposed site.

That hurdle must be cleared before the company, Nordic Aquafarms, can start lining up required permits and approvals from federal and state agencies.

A state audit says Maine must strengthen oversight to ensure it's only paying unemployment claims to active job-seekers.

Auditor Pola Buckley says the lack of internal controls leaves a significant risk that the state could lead to an employment tax rate increase to replenish Maine's unemployment fund. The state's bureau of unemployment compensation also found evidence of overpayments in 17 of 60 cases.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

This story is part of Maine Public's Rural Maine Reporting Project, a year-long series of news reports that highlight the benefits, challenges and opportunities of life in today’s rural and western Maine.

PORTLAND, Maine — The City Council in Maine’s largest city has decided to keep renting space to a company that runs a ferry to Nova Scotia.

Councilors in Portland voted on Monday to approve renewal of Bay Ferries Ltd.’s lease of Ocean Gateway Terminal for 2018. The move ends months of uncertainty about whether the ferry, called The Cat, would be back.

A.J. Higgins / Maine Public

What is believed to be Maine's first tiny homes subdivision moved closer to reality Tuesday night after the Swanville Planning Board gave its final approval to a proposal to build a half-dozen of the 440-square foot structures on a 50-acre parcel on Oak Hill Road.

Derek Davis, of Thorndike, and Chad Tozier, of Unity, have formed a partnership to market the homes which are being constructed by the Amish-owned Backyard Buildings of Unity. Davis says the next challenge for the project will be connecting the tiny homes with renters or buyers.

Documents show 97,000 Maine power customers saw their bills double between December 2017 and February 2018.

WMTW-TV reports Central Maine Power filed documents with the state Public Utilities Commission Tuesday that showed 140,000 bills for monthly and average daily usage in that time period saw increases of more than 50 percent.

The state launched an audit into Central Maine Power after about 1,500 customers contacted the commission about high winter power bills.

Maine officials say they will take a more cautionary approach to managing toxic algae blooms this year in the hopes of avoiding shellfish recalls.

Sudden blooms in recent years have forced the Maine Department of Marine Resources to close large sections of coast to shellfish harvesting and issue recalls of clams and mussels. The Portland Press Herald reports the department is planning more vigorous and sensitive monitoring this year, and will immediately close harvesting areas if it detects toxins.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine regulators can move ahead on plans to gradually provide fewer bill credits for new buyers of solar panels.

A House vote Tuesday killed a bill aiming to lessen the impact of the Maine Public Utilities Commission’s proposal to ramp down compensation for new solar panel owners. Supporters say the bill would prohibit regulators from charging solar customers a fee for generated power used in homes or businesses.

The House’s 96-50 vote wasn’t enough to override Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s veto. The Senate recently overrode the veto.

Maine Public/file

PORTLAND, Maine - Maine's scallop fishery is reaching the end of a season that showed signs of further rebuilding.
The fishery collapsed in the mid-2000s and has steadily rebuilt amid new management measures over the last few years. Tuesday is the final day of the 2017-18 season for scallop draggers to harvest the shellfish.
The fishery still includes a few divers who harvest scallops by hand, and they can continue working until April 15.

Harvest Of Clams Continues To Dwindle In New England

Apr 8, 2018
Pat Wellenbach / AP Photo

The harvest of soft-shell clams is dwindling along the coast of New England, where the shellfish are embedded in the culture as much as the tidal muck.

The search for a new seasonal carrier at Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport in Trenton may be nearly over. Bradley Madeira the airport’s manager, said Friday that two airlines have submitted bids to the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide federally subsidized service during the summer when the airport accommodates nearly half of its annual passenger volume.

"We've received one proposal from Boutique Air and one from Silver Airways and both are great carriers, both have a lot to offer," Madeira said.

A Maine utility that is facing complaints of unusually high power bills says it has faith that a state audit will determine whether its systems are producing accurate bills.

Central Maine Power officials today said they have yet to find any problems with their billing system. They told reporters on a teleconference there have been nearly 1600 complaints of high bills in recent months.

CMP spokesperson Beth Nowack Cowen said they did uncover some problems with how usage was shown on bills.

Commercial fishermen and environmental groups agree a longstanding dispute over the future of at-sea monitoring is far from over, despite recent funding help from Congress.

Monitors are on-board workers who collect data to help inform fishing regulations. The federal government moved the cost of paying for them to fishermen in some Northeast fisheries in 2016.

Democrats in the Maine House have held off a Republican bid to slow down the minimum wage increase passed by voters nearly two years ago – at least for now.

The original bill would have cut the yearly increase in the minimum wage that was ratified in 2016, while also cutting the current rate of $10 an hour to $9.50 come June 1. But the proposal was amended to eliminate the proposed wage cut while implementing a 50-cent per year increase to replace the one-dollar increases in current law.