NEWPORT – From federal dignitaries to small children – with lots of uniformed NOAA Corps officers, local fishermen and shop keepers, retirees, scientists, Oregon State University administrators and construction workers thrown in – Newport turned out under dazzling blue skies today to formally dedicate the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s new Marine Operations Center – Pacific.
About the only ones who didn’t make it to the party were the research and survey vessels that will call the new facility home. It’s the height of the research season for them, and they and their crews are out at sea.
When they return to port, they’ll find a $38 million, state-of-the art facility with everything needed to support and maintain NOAA’s high-tech Pacific research vessels – and a community that seems absolutely thrilled to have them here for at least the next 20 years. If the “Welcome NOAA” signs that have popped up all over town during the past two years weren’t enough proof of that, the enthusiastic crowd was.
The formal dedication took place in a tent big enough to seat 560 people. Every chair appeared to be filled, and the overflow stood outside in the sunshine and listened as speakers – from Port of Newport General Manager Don Mann to US Congressmen, Oregon’s governor and NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco (herself an Oregonian) praised the community for its unified support of the project, the contractors and engineers for bringing it in on time, under budget and with a stellar safety record, and NOAA for bringing jobs and economic development that will bolster the community’s already strong reputation as a center for marine research.
Then it was back outside, where those who’d spoken pulled the ropes to unfurl a banner labeling the facility’s headquarters building – almost. One corner got stuck, despite Dr. Lubchenco’s best effort to yank it free, and finally had to be freed by a NOAA Corps officer who went inside, opened a window and freed the stuck corner, to applause from the crowd.
The rest of the afternoon was devoted to tours of the facility, its small museum of precious NOAA artifacts, exhibits by NOAA’s component organizations (the National Weather Service, NOAA Fisheries, etc.), and strolling out onto the huge new docks and enjoying the sunshine. Dr. Lubchenco boarded a crabbing boat, the Delma Ann, for a quick trip over to the Port of Newport, where she was briefed on the success of a lost-gear retrieval project funded by a $790,000 NOAA grant. (An Oregon Sea Grant pilot project in 2007 helped pave the way for that effort.)
The weekend celebration continues on Sunday, with an open house from 11 am to 4 pm. It’s a rare opportunity for the public to see the facility, which will be closed to the public except for special occasions and organized tours.
- Photos from the dedication ceremony on the Oregon Sea Grant Flickr gallery.
- NOAA’s news release about the dedication
- The NOAA MOP-Pacific Website