Mill town no more

On the shores of the Penobscot River, at the top of Penobscot Bay across from Verona Island, Fort Knox and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge is the former mill town of Bucksport. Long known for the large paper mill that shaped the town’s image, Bucksport is shedding its mill town image as it becomes a destination for new ideas, new opportunities and new development.

Say hello to land-based salmon farming.

Last week’s announcement that Whole Oceans would develop the former Bucksport paper mill property into a large-scale, land-based salmon farm with a goal of 200 jobs mirrored a similar reveal in nearby Belfast. With over $10 billion in worldwide fresh salmon sales last year, Maine suddenly could be on the world the map for this sustainable food product.

Using a process called RAS — recirculating aquaculture systems — Whole Oceans (a Maine-owner/based aquaculture firm) plans to use a closed, indoor, land-based system that recycles its water to farm fresh salmon. When complete, the Bucksport site will house one of the largest land-based aquaculture projects in the world.

Besides a ready abundance of water, Whole Oceans found in Bucksport a premium piece of land well suited for its needs and a community summoning the energy, spirit and enthusiasm to embrace an opportunity like Whole Oceans. The openness found in Bucksport and the work put forth by Susan Lessard and the Town Council have been rewarded by the confidence of a prospective $250 million investment.

In 1856, Louis Pasteur reminded his medical students that “Chance favors the prepared mind.” Bucksport’s welcoming public image and willingness to chart a new course are the town’s “prepared mind.” Hancock County’s export economy — mice for scientific research, blueberries and lobster — may soon have to make room for salmon.

We’ve said it before: there is something in the water in Bucksport, something that more towns in Maine are going to want.

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