NOAA begins Newport move-in

New NOAA fleet headquarters, NewportNEWPORT – With little fanfare, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has begun moving in to its new port facility here, soon to be home to the agency’s Pacific research fleet.

NOAA officials accepted the keys to the new facility on April 29, five days ahead of the construction deadline, and met with Port of Newport officials to sign the final documents of a 20-year lease on the property, situated on Yaquina Bay across from Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center.

Among those taking part in the signing was retired Oregon Sea Grant Extension agent Ginny Goblirsch, now president of the Newport Port Commission.

The new Marine Operations Center and its long dock will become home base for the  vessels of NOAA’s North Pacific fleet: the Miller Freeman, the McArthur II,  the Rainier, the Oscar Dyson, and the  Bell M. Shimada (the agency’s newest research ship).

The agency’s decision to move the center to Newport from its longtime base in Lake Union, WA, sparked political outcries from lawmakers and local governments in the Seattle area, and an equally strong show of support from the Oregon community. The decision survived multiple political and procedural challenges, largely because of cost-savings the federal government hopes to realize from its initial 20-year lease with the Port of Newport. Groundbreaking took place last June, and construction crews have been working ever since to complete the complex of docks and support buildings that make up the new center.

NOAA’s lease on its Washington facility expires on June 30, and the agency has already begun moving personnel and equipment south. Once the ships and support personnel have settled in, there are plans for a public open house in mid-July, and an official ribbon-cutting ceremony on Aug. 12.

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NOAA Marine Operations Center under construction

(Aerial photo courtesy of NOAA; ground-level photo by Pat Kight, Oregon Sea Grant)