Millinocket and East Millinocket will receive $3.5 million to redevelop their former paper mills as part of a federal spending bill that the U.S. Senate passed late Thursday evening.
The town of East Millinocket will receive $2.85 million and Millinocket nonprofit Our Katahdin will receive $671,000 as part of a $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill, which funds the federal government through the rest of fiscal year 2022 and will send $13.6 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine.
Our Katahdin, which owns the former Great Northern Paper Co. mill site, will use its award to fund a study of the former mill’s wastewater treatment plant and examine its options for remediation and reuse.
Meanwhile, East Millinocket will use its award to renovate buildings on its former mill site to attract future tenants, selectboard member Mike Michaud said.
“We’re very excited,” Michaud said, who added that the award would allow the town to repair its train shed, which is located next to the former paper mill warehouse. “This will have a big impact.”
Our Katahdin and East Millinocket have made strides to repurpose the defunct paper mills after they closed in 2008 and 2014, respectively, and reinvigorate their economies after the mills’ closing drained the Katahdin region of hundreds of jobs.
Since buying the former Millinocket mill site in 2017, Our Katahdin has strived to turn the property into an industrial hub. It signed a lease with Nautilus Data Technologies last June to host a data center, and Portland startup Ocean Renewable Power Co. announced last month that it planned to use the mill location as a testing site for a device that generates electricity using river currents.
Our Katahdin did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
East Millinocket also won a grant in January to prepare the site for its first tenant since buying the former mill site in July 2020. The town has leased with Standard Biocarbon Corp. to host a factory to turn wood chips into biochar, a sustainable alternative to fertilizer.
Michaud said that the former mill site has received interest from five other potential tenants, all of which are in the forestry industry.