Seattle and Bellingham, Wash., sure weren’t too happy about the move, but the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) Marine Operation Center-Pacific officially opened for business on July 1 in its new digs in Newport, Ore. And fine digs they are. 

But the planned two-year move wasn’t as simple as hiring a moving truck—or a moving boat, in this case. The Port of Newport lured NOAA with a less expensive lease and a $29.4 million construction package—the NOAA Homeport Project—that included a new facility on five acres in South Beach plush with an administrative building, a 1,500-foot-long fixed pier, a small boat dock, a boat workshop and ample parking. Seattle’s super expensive lease and Bellingham’s attempts proved futile, despite ample legal and political maneuvering, to keep NOAA from sailing south from Washington.

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To keep the NOAA crews on the six research vessels and administrative employees (expect more than 110 officers and crew as part of the 175 employees based in Newport) happy at their new home, Anderson Construction/WCC Joint Venture built a new 40,000-square-foot center that will now provide logistical, engineering, maintenance and administrative support for NOAA’s entire Pacific fleet.

The goal of the NOAA operations is to understand and predict changes in the earth’s environment, from the depths of the oceans to the surface of the sun and conserve and manage the nation’s coastal and marine resources.

While employees turned the lights on just a few days ago, the public can view the facilities during a dedication ceremony and open house on Aug. 20. The NOAA plans other opportunities for the public to visit the facility and tour the ships too.

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To get the site ready for the new digs, crews needed to demolish 14 million pounds of concrete, steel and asphalt. Material from the dock, including 300-feet of bull rail, the hoist, and some timbers, were salvaged during demolition and over 99 percent of all materials were recycled.

West Coast Constructors, they’re the WCC part of the Joint Venture for those keeping score at home, won the bid for the in-water work that included the building of the pier, small-boat dock, dredging and mitigation excavation.

As part of the mitigation for the project, crews harvested eelgrass and moved it to the Oregon Coast Aquarium until it could be replanted at the site, which proved successful, obviously much to the relief of the contractors.

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Anderson/WCC also designed the NOAA office building and warehouse to LEED silver certification standards.

The project, 22 months in the making, was finished five days ahead of schedule and under budget by May 1. The first NOAA research vessel arrived at the new pier in June and the office was readied for staff for the July 1 opening.

The landing of the NOAA fleet in 2009 signified a major coup for Newport and the entire state of Oregon. The construction industry benefited from the extra work and now the local economy will see how much the new headquarters will help out.

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