This rendering shows the 120-acre salmon farm Whole Oceans plans to build on a portion of the former Verso mill site in Bucksport. Whole Oceans recently completed the purchase of the property. RENDERING COURTESY OF JOHN GUTWIN OF PEPPERCHROME

Whole Oceans closes on Bucksport land purchase

BUCKSPORT — It’s official: Whole Oceans now owns a piece of the former Verso mill site, where it plans to raise salmon.

Whole Oceans, which intends to use a state-of-the-art recirculating aquaculture system to raise Atlantic salmon, announced Tuesday the completion of a purchase and sale agreement with AIM (American Iron and Metal) for a parcel of property on the site of the former Verso paper mill.

The milestone marks the culmination of many months of permitting as well as negotiations with AIM and is a significant step forward for the project, officials said Tuesday.

“The progress on the Whole Oceans project in Bucksport is exceeding expectations,” said Jason Mitchell, president of Whole Oceans. “It’s amazing what can be achieved when the community, local government and business collaborate toward common goals. Advances in permitting, site diligence, design and construction planning really highlight the opportunity that this project delivers.”

“Bucksport is an optimal location for this type of operation, and we are looking forward to a long-term relationship with the town of Bucksport, and to making this community a world leader in our industry,” Mitchell said.

Bucksport Town Manager Susan Lessard said Tuesday that the announcement is “one more important piece in the redevelopment of our town.

“We look forward to the development of Whole Oceans and the valuation, jobs and opportunity that it brings to Bucksport,” Lessard said. “In addition, we appreciate the ability to be the host community for a world class facility in this emerging industry.”

Jeff McGlin, vice president of AIM Development, USA LLC said, “American Iron and Metal (AIM) is happy that the efforts of various stakeholders have culminated today in the successful conclusion of the sale by AIM of a portion of the former Bucksport mill site to Whole Oceans.”

Governor Janet Mills is excited about the announcement.

“My administration is thrilled to welcome Whole Oceans to Maine,” said Mills in a prepared statement. “This investment will provide good-paying jobs for hard-working Mainers, help build on our heritage industries and diversify our economy and offer promising opportunities for continued growth in the future. I applaud Whole Oceans and look forward [to] its success in Bucksport and the region.”

Whole Oceans anticipates breaking ground on its portion of the former mill site later this year.

The company says it will initially produce 5,000 metric tons of Atlantic salmon annually, quickly ramping up to 10,000 metric tons annually. Over time, the company plans to increase capacity to 20,000 metric tons per year on the Bucksport site and up to 50,000 metric tons in the region. Whole Oceans is also seeking sites for production on the West Coast.

Whole Oceans has had a holding company, Emergent Holdings, based in Portland, since the business was formed, Whole Oceans Spokesperson Angie Helton said this week.

“This will have no affect on doing business in Bucksport and Jason Mitchell remains president and COO of the company,” she said.

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