The former Verso Paper mill in Bucksport. Credit: Gabor Degre

BUCKSPORT, Maine — The company proposing to build what would be one of New England’s first land-based salmon farms has applied for its town building permit and has plans to start development in November.

The building permit application, submitted Friday, is the latest step the firm Whole Oceans has taken toward building a salmon farm on the site of the former Verso Paper mill, which closed in 2014. The application for the town building permit offers one of the first looks at how exactly the company plans to develop the more than 100 acres it purchased from mill site owner AIM Development in May.

The Bucksport Planning Board will likely review the application from Whole Oceans — and possibly approve it — when it meets on Sept. 3, said Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Hammond.

Credit: Contributed

The company has separately applied to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for a site location and development permit. It needs both permits before it can begin construction.

“The planning board will have its hands full with this application,” Hammond said. “It’s very thick.”

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A first phase of the salmon farm’s development, estimated at $180.6 million, could create as many as 75 jobs in a town that lost 570 jobs when the paper mill closed five years ago. It could also put Maine at the forefront of a fledgling national industry. As many as 200 people could be hired if the company moves ahead with a later expansion.

The company’s application for its Bucksport building permit calls for earth work on 22 acres of the site to start in November. That work, estimated to cost about $6.5 million, would include demolishing paper mill foundations, piping and storage tanks to make way for the company’s proposed Freshwater Building.

Credit: Contributed

Construction on that 90,000-square-foot building would begin in April 2020, according to the permit application, and finish six months later in October 2020. The Freshwater Building is where Whole Oceans plans to hatch salmon eggs and raise the young fish to 10 months of age. The building will also house offices.

Besides construction of the building, this phase of the project would include the installation of the building’s underground utilities and aquaculture and water treatment systems, along with improvements to its north and south roads. Including the building’s square footage, this phase will redevelop a total of 340,000 square feet of the mill site, according to the application.

Construction of a second unit, called the South Grow-out Building, is scheduled to take 12 months starting in October 2020. It will house large recirculating aquaculture systems and supporting infrastructure to raise the salmon to a size suitable for sale. Recirculating aquaculture systems flush seawater through large fish tanks. Warehouse space for fish feed will also be located in this 350,000-square-foot building.

Credit: Contributed

If Whole Oceans’ operation in Bucksport is successful and expands, the company will build the North Grow-out Building, possibly in 2025 or 2026. At 350,000 square feet, it will mirror the South building, according to the application.

Personnel from Kuterra, a company on Canada’s west coast that Whole Oceans’ parent company is attempting to acquire, will help Whole Oceans with the installation and operation of aquaculture equipment on the Bucksport site, according to the permit application.

Kuterra runs one of the world’s first land-based salmon farms.

Watch: Why so many fish farms are slated to open in Maine

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