Saturday, October 17, 2009

The effort to keep NOAA on Lake Union--and how to help

Can Seattle keep NOAA’s beautiful white ships and the many jobs they represent, or will they move to Oregon? Washington’s U.S. Senators and Representatives—and you--will make the difference.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is descended from the Coast and Geodetic Survey, which since the mid-1800s has made navigation possible on the Pacific Coast through its exploration and map-making. NOAA also has become central to prediction of weather patterns (including tsunamis) and in understanding global warming. NOAA’s ships have homeported on Lake Union since 1916, just a 5.6 mile drive from its scientific laboratories that were built in Sand Point in 1978. But under the Bush administration, NOAA began a process to consider other homeports, with the current privately owned and taxpaying Lake Union site facing tax-subsidized competition on (non-taxpaying) public land of the Ports of Bellingham, Port Angeles, and Newport.

NOAA is located in the Department of Commerce, whose Secretary is former Washington Governor Gary Locke. NOAA reports to a U.S. Senate Committee chaired by Washington Senator Maria Cantwell. Nevertheless, on August 8, NOAA signed a lease to move its home port to Newport, Oregon, turning down the lease renewal proposal for the Lake Union site. Newport has no guarantee of getting the state and federal permits needed to build new structures for NOAA in a sensitive natural area, estuary and salmon run of the Yaquina River. Relocation of the NOAA ships to Newport would cause millions of dollars a year in increased costs for fuel, personnel, and repair, undermining their safe and effective operation and the realization of their mission of science and national and global security.

The NOAA ships are an icon for Seattle. NOAA employees who sail on the ships make their homes in the Seattle area, as do many others in NOAA and the private sector who maintain and supply the ships. You can help keep the NOAA ships homeported in Seattle by urging action by U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and our U.S. Representative Jim McDermott. To send e-mails or obtain their Washington, D.C. address or phone number, go to www.cantwell.senate.gov, www.murray.senate.gov, and www.house.gov/mcdermott. You can also leave phone messages with their Seattle offices:

Cantwell: (206) 220-6400;

Murray: (206) 553-5545; and

McDermott: (206) 553-7170.