The company developing a $180 million Atlantic salmon farm in Bucksport has redesigned some of its construction plans so a building and road steer clear of the remains of a 19th-century farmstead found during an archaeological survey in September.
The results of the survey confirmed the presence of the farmstead — specifically, a stone-lined cellar hole, said Arthur Spiess, chief historic preservationist for the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.
Whole Oceans, the company behind the Atlantic salmon farm, hired a contractor to conduct the survey after a local, amateur historian, Emeric Spooner, raised concerns that some aspects of local history would be lost from the development, said Susan Lessard, Bucksport’s town manager.
In response to the findings, the company will change the planned locations of an auxiliary building and an access road. They were close enough to the farmstead to make the moves a wise precaution, Spiess said.
Spiess said the historical significance of the find, which has been on some local maps for decades, “is undetermined.”
“It could be significant. To make that determination we would need more historic research and field work,” Spiess said. “But they are avoiding building on the site, and that’s good enough management for now. If somebody wants to redevelop the landscape in the future, they know it is there. For now, we are satisfied with the redesign.”
Spiess declined to identify the contractor who performed the archaeological survey or release the contractor’s final report, saying that the exact location of historical sites, which the report identifies, is confidential under state law.
The contractor performed a Phase I archaeological survey, which typically involves the review of the Maine Historical Preservation Commission’s site inventory, historic maps and other documents, then a visual inspection of the property, plus some shovel-pit testing — shallow test digs of about 50 square centimeters — of areas where historical content is most likely to be.
The Maine Historic Preservation Commission typically requires 100 to 200 Phase I surveys annually out of the approximately 2,000 projects it reviews, Spiess said.
Whole Oceans plans to start building its salmon farm next spring on the portion of the former paper mill site it bought from mill site owner American Iron and Metal earlier this year.
American Iron and Metal has removed more than 1 million square feet of building area from the mill site since it began doing demolition work in mid-2015, in preparation for what eventually became the Whole Oceans project and a Maine Maritime Academy continuing-education annex.
AIM had the mill’s remaining 360-foot smoke stack demolished in late October.
Related: Drone footage of the Bucksport smoke stack demolition