Cleanup of the debris after the demolition of the smokestack at the former Verso Paper mill in Bucksport on Tuesday. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN

BUCKSPORT, Maine — With its iconic smokestack razed, the site of the former Verso Paper mill is about 95 percent ready for the development expected there over the next few years.

In addition to razing the mill’s 360-foot smokestack Tuesday morning, mill site owner American Iron and Metal has removed more than 1 million square feet of building area since it began the demolition work in mid-2015, said Jeff McGlin, vice president of AIM Development USA.

AIM is still working on demolishing the last 250,000 square feet of building space it plans to take down, McGlin said.

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

What remains before the site is ready for two new tenants also includes cleaning up the debris from the mill’s 350-foot smokestack and using rollers to compact gravel, he said.

The cleanup will make way for a $180 million Atlantic Salmon farm being built by the Portland company Whole Oceans and a training annex where Maine Maritime Academy annually expects to train 2,400 students and professional mariners. Both of those projects are shaping up to be part of Bucksport’s rebound from the paper mill closure and loss of 570 jobs in 2014. Whole Oceans has said the salmon farm could eventually employ 200 people.

McGlin said he was confident that AIM’s sitework would be finished by the end of November.

Whole Oceans awaits its final permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection before it can start preparing its portion of the mill site. It plans to start construction on two buildings next year, according to its Bucksport building permit application — a 90,000-square-foot building that will house salmon eggs and fish up to 10 months old — and a 350,000-square-foot structure where the company will raise salmon to a size suitable for sale, 10 to 12 pounds.

The company has said it expects to break ground in the spring.

Maine Maritime Academy has already started installing internet wiring in a former Verso training building that will house Maine Maritime classrooms, McGlin said.

Maine Maritime will also build an adjacent building on its four-acre parcel where firefighters will train in spaces designed to look like cargo vessels. The academy is expected to start training activities on the Verso site before the firefighter training facility is completed.

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN

Another development at the mill site is a pending change in ownership of the on-site power plant.

AIM is planning to sell the site’s 161-megawatt natural gas- and oil-fired generator to a New York-based firm, Stonepeak Kestrel Holdings III. Stonepeak has applied for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval of its plans, which are under review.

The sale is supposed to close by Friday.

At a special meeting Tuesday night, the Bucksport Planning Board voted 7-0 on several motions to shift a boundary line so that voltage lines that run between a Central Maine Power substation and the site’s power plant will be on plant-owned land.