AUGUSTA – An area along the Kennebec River that was once the site of two mills and needs to be cleaned of contamination is proposed for a new building for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and a rejuvenated recreation area.
Governor Janet Mills has requested $39.5 million for the project in her proposed supplementary budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year, but it must receive approval from the Legislative Assembly before moving forward.
The agency moved to space on Water Street in Augusta in October, but it has already become “crowded” with 100 employees from the Augusta and Bangor branches of the department.
“The new building will consolidate four offices and storage areas of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, providing a central location for services, research, personnel, equipment and materials, and (it) will create a destination for learning, recreation and commerce to the east. side of the Kennebec River,” communications director Mark Latti said in a statement.
The main site under study is the former Statler Tissue Co. plant on the east side of the Kennebec River. It comprises two parcels – one of approximately 20 acres owned by the City of Augusta and the other a 4.51 acre piece of land owned by a private company called AIM Corporation.
Both sites are brownfields, meaning they contain contaminants, pollutants or hazardous substances. There are specific ways to clear land, but the process must be done before a new development is built, and some areas cannot be built on.
Pollutants such as PCBs, number six oil, and TAH-contaminated soil have been identified and likely remained from the old plant. Petroleum products, oil and PCBs were found on the AIM site.
“The location of the proposed facility would revitalize two post-industrial brownfield cleanup sites on the Kennebec River into an energy-efficient office and learning center,” said Elaine Clark, Deputy Commissioner of the Services Department. Maine’s administrative finances, to the state budget. committee in March. It would provide a “unique learning opportunity” for the public and visitors, she added.
Latti said the goal for the new location is to be a certified green building that “will become a centerpiece on how to revitalize and recycle old brownfield industrial sites.”
“This energy efficient and environmentally friendly building will reduce water and fuel consumption and create an improved and environmentally friendly indoor environment for staff, visitors and customers,” said Latti.
The governor’s budget still needs to be approved before any formal decisions are made on the space, but the proposed timeline calls for tendering and construction to begin in 2024 and debt servicing would be included in the governor’s budget. 2024-25 financial year. The land has not yet been sold.
Clark said the Department of Administrative and Financial Services will resolve issues regarding site access, on-site railroad tracks, “off-limits” locations on the property, and contamination-related issues in the coming months if the Governor’s budget is adopted.
At the same meeting Clark spoke at, Augusta Mayor Mark O’Brien said he was excited about the proposed location, calling it “an outdoor enthusiast’s dream,” while being close to downtown Augusta and the State House.
He suggested putting a trail on the Kennebec River to connect the two sides of the area, and the possibility of creating paths that could be part of the East Coast Greenway connecting Maine to Florida.
“The sites proximity to downtown and restaurants will be very convenient for (Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department) visitors and the site is close enough for (Department) staff to remain well connected to the rest of the state government,” O says Brien.
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