Whole Oceans has leased submerged land along the Penobscot River and put itself a step closer to starting construction on its $180 million Atlantic salmon farm in Bucksport.
The lease agreement with the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands gives the Portland-based company the right to use plumbing that extends from the former Verso Paper mill site — where Whole Oceans has purchased about 100 acres — into the river. The lease expires in 2034, said Angie Helton, the company’s spokeswoman. The state owns the river, and the structures extending into it were originally part of the mill.
With the possibility of up to 75 jobs from the salmon farm’s first phase, the project is part of Bucksport’s gradual rebound from Verso’s closure in 2014 that resulted in 570 millworkers losing their jobs.
Whole Oceans needs the lease because its operation will use entirely land-based recirculating aquaculture systems, which flush seawater through large fish tanks and back out to sea via the river. The company, under its wastewater discharge permit from the state, can discharge an average of 18.6 million gallons of filtered water per day into the Penobscot River to grow salmon from egg to 10 to 12 pounds per fish.
As part of the deal, Whole Oceans will lease 4,488 square feet along the shore and an 8- by 230-foot area for an outfall pipe — a total area of 6,328 feet, said Jim Britt, a spokesman for the Bureau of Parks and Lands.
A second lease, between Whole Oceans and Bucksport Mill LLC, a subsidiary of mill site American Iron and Metal, covers a second area of 8 feet by 120 feet, that is used by both companies, Britt said.
Whole Oceans will pay the state $584.11 annually and Bucksport Mill LLC $150 annually, he said. Whole Oceans isn’t adding new pipes or other infrastructure.
Whole Oceans hopes to break ground on its salmon farm in the spring, Helton said, a delay from its previous estimate that it would break ground in November.
The company awaits a final development permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection that it expects will come by the end of November. It secured its building permit from the town of Bucksport in September.
In Belfast, the site where Nordic Aquafarms hopes to bury its pipes that would funnel water between the site of its proposed land-based salmon farm and Penobscot Bay has become embroiled in legal wrangling over competing claims to its ownership.