NOAA Selects Newport, Ore., as New Home of Marine Operations Center-Pacific

August 4, 2009
NOAA has selected the Port of Newport, Ore., to be the new home of the agency’s Marine Operations Center-Pacific beginning in 2011 pending the signing of a 20-year lease.

NOAA selected the site following a rigorous process involving an extensive review of proposals submitted by sites in Washington and Oregon, both of which are centrally located for all NOAA ship operations on the West Coast. The current lease expires on June 30, 2011.

“NOAA is committed to providing the highest level of science, service and value to the nation,” said Rear Adm. Jonathan W. Bailey, director of the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and the NOAA Corps. “We look forward to reuniting NOAA’s West Coast research ships and support personnel at one facility and being an active part of the community.”

Considerations in selecting the site included NOAA’s infrastructure needs, proximity to maritime industry resources and NOAA labs, quality of life for civilian employees, officers and crew, the ability to meet the desired occupancy date of July 2011 in addition to lease cost.

NOAA’s requirements for the new site include office and warehouse space, berthing for the four NOAA ships homeported at the NOAA Marine Operations Center-Pacific and up to two visiting ships, and LEED-certified, environmentally sustainable main buildings. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, provides a suite of standards for environmentally sustainable construction.

The NOAA Marine Operations Center-Pacific is comprised of approximately 175 employees, including more than 110 officers and crew assigned to the NOAA ships[I] McArthur II[/I], [I]Miller Freeman[/I], [I]Rainier[/I] and [I]Bell M. Shimada[/I], a new fisheries survey vessels expected to join the NOAA fleet in 2010.

The NOAA fleet of vessels and aircraft is operated, managed and maintained by the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, which includes civilians and officers of the NOAA Corps. The NOAA Corps is one of the nation’s seven uniformed services. Its commissioned officers have degrees in engineering, science or mathematics and provide NOAA with an important blend of technical, operational and leadership skills at sea, in the air and in program offices throughout the nation.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the oceans to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.

source: NOAA

I’ve been reading the news about this all morning, in all the papers from the cities involved, via Google’s news feed, and trying to get grasp for what it will mean to each area.

So far it seems Newport is ecstatic, Port Angeles and Bellingham are disappointed and about half of Seattle can tell you why they left. What has greatly disappointed (but not surprised) me is the response from Washington’s politicians. They’ve responded with lies, suggestions of tampering and favouritism and tried to place blame on NOAA. They claim they will fight this decision. Personally I hope NOAA stands firm against them.

From what I’ve gathered from Seattle residents, the Lake Union waterfront is being transformed into a playground for the rich. Prices are sky-rocketing, the repairs to the NOAA facility, damaged by fire in 2006, have been hindered by the local government, and the local area is in disrepair. As someone who has a fair chance of being sent there, I know that, based on the little I’ve learned, I prefer Newport.

I’m just appalled at the politicians putting themselves before the agency.

Here are my concerns with Newport:

  1. Lack of larger infrastructure for supplies, engineering contractors, stores, etc.
  2. Newport is at least 3 hours from the nearest airport, which considerably increases the pain-in-the-butt factor for new crewmembers, those going on leave, etc.
  3. Crossing the bar in any time other than middle of summer is not fun. From the US Coast Pilot:
    “In winter the heavy W swell makes the bar very rough. A smooth bar and a favorable tide are necessary for large vessels leaving Yaquina Bay.”
  4. The disadvantages of the ship being in salt water all the time, especially a berth that is subject to tidal influences.

In Newport’s favor:

  1. Hatfield Marine Science Center for Oregon State University is home to some of the best marine scientists in the world. (Disclaimer: my alma mater so I might be a wee bit biased.)
  2. The Oregon Coast Aquarium is everything the Seattle Aquarium wishes it could be.
  3. Rogue Ales (need I say more?)