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Originally published August 4, 2009 at 10:40 AM | Page modified August 4, 2009 at 5:16 PM

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NOAA operations moving from Lake Union to Oregon

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is moving its Pacific Marine Operations Center from Seattle to Newport, Oregon.

Seattle Times science reporter

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is moving its Pacific Marine Operations Center from Seattle to Newport, Ore.

The Seattle center, located on Lake Union, supports 10 research vessels that work along the Pacific Coast. About 175 people work at the center, mostly crew members on the four ships based in Seattle.

The move will be made in 2011, the agency announced today.

NOAA has been considering a move for several years. In 2006, a fire swept through the Lake Union facility, destroying two piers and two storage facilities.

In addition to Seattle and Newport, Bellingham and Port Angeles had hoped to be chosen for the base.

The move will not affect NOAA's laboratories near Magnuson Park on Sand Point, and near Montlake.

NOAA's fleet of ships is used for a wide range of scientific and fisheries research.

In making the decision, NOAA officials said they considered many factors, including cost, logistics and quality of life for employees.

However, they refused to make public their analysis of the pros and cons of the sites.

The federal contracting process does not allow that information to be released until after a contract is signed, said Rear Admiral Jonathan W. Bailey.

He did say the Newport facility will offer new offices, warehouses and piers, and will allow all of NOAA's ships to be berthed in the same location. Since the Seattle facility was damaged by a fire, ships have been berthed in several locations around Puget Sound.

Newport is home to an Oregon State University marine research lab. Jane Lubchenco, NOAA's new chief, is a former OSU oceanographer, but Bailey said she played no role in the site selection.

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U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state, who chairs the Senate subcommittee that oversees NOAA, said she intends to fight the planned move.

"I seriously question whether relocating NOAA's ships outside of the Puget Sound is really the right move for NOAA," Cantwell said in a statement.

Cantwell said she will push NOAA and the Department of Commerce, which oversees the agency, "to make sure that every option has been given full consideration before a move actually occurs."

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels called the NOAA's decision "deeply disappointing."

"Ultimately, this was a real estate decision between NOAA and a private Lake Union landowner who could not compete with massive public subsidies," Nickels said. "We will work with our congressional delegation to explore next steps."

The Port of Newport said it would issue $24.76 million in revenue bonds to cover half the cost of the new facility in Oregon, and the state agreed to add $19.5 million in bonding capacity for the project.

Sandi Doughton: 206-464-2491 or sdoughton@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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