NOAA Pivers Island lab may close (updated) - News-Times: News

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NOAA Pivers Island lab may close (updated)

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Posted: Thursday, March 13, 2014 10:50 am | Updated: 11:53 am, Mon Mar 17, 2014.

BEAUFORT — The federal government has had a lab in Beaufort for about 115 years; but if the president’s proposed budget is passed, it will close.

President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2014-15 budget request has been presented to Congress for approval. This request includes a proposal to close the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lab on Pivers Island.

Ciaran Clayton, director of NOAA’s Communications and External Affairs, confirmed the proposal. She said in an email to the News-Times Wednesday the lab has conducted valuable fisheries and coastal science for more than 100 years.

“However, this aging facility requires infrastructure repairs and improvements exceeding agency budget resources now and for the foreseeable future,” she said. “The president’s FY2015 budget request addresses this challenge by proposing closure of the lab. The proposal requires congressional approval."

While some of the buildings in the lab are several decades old, some new facilities have been built. The current main lab building was built in 2007. According to Dr. James Morris, a biologist at the lab, there are 70 federal employees there, as well as about 40 non-federal employees, such as contractors.

The infrastructure improvements needed, according to Ms. Clayton, would be an added expense on top of the $1.6 million the lab needs each year.

NOAA’s FY2015 budget proposal included a request to increase competitive research grants by $6 million to conduct research on coastal ocean issues. These issues include harmful algal blooms, hypoxia and coastal ecosystem assessment.

Employees were notified earlier this week of the proposed closure. Federal employees are to be retained but will be relocated, pending Congressional action.  If Congress approves the proposal, the process of closing the lab could take some time.

One North Carolina congressman isn’t happy with the proposal to shut down the lab. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C. had his office send the News-Times a quote in an email Thursday that he’s seriously troubled by the president’s budget proposal.

“President Barack Obama has proposed closing a research lab in Eastern North Carolina while continuing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on infrastructure projects in Afghanistan,” Rep. Jones said.

The federal government has had a marine lab in Beaufort since before NOAA officially existed. The United States Fish Commission, NOAA’s predecessor, established the lab in 1899. The lab was originally established in the Gibbs House on Front Street. In 1902, the federal marine biologists there were moved to a two-story lab on Pivers Island.

The lab operated for 25 years as a summer facility after it first opened. It began operating under NOAA in 1970, when then-President Richard Nixon established the administration.

To date the lab has been operated jointly between the NOAA Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research and the N.C. National Estuarine Research Reserve. Though they share the same building, built in 2007, the two organizations operate separately. Other structures date back to its original opening.

The federal lab conducts a number of types of coastal marine research. The lab maps and characterizes coastal habitats, such as salt marshes, seagrass meadows and coral reefs. It also conducts fisheries research, such as stock assessments, habitat dependence, ecosystem modeling, food web definition, physiology, genetics, oceanography and marine mammal and sea turtles biological studies.

Contact Mike Shutak at 252-726-7081 ext. 206, email mike@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.

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11 comments:

  • Hermit posted at 8:18 am on Sat, Mar 15, 2014.

    Hermit Posts: 14

    Funding should not be cut for protection of the seventy percent of our planet that is covered by oceans. On Pivers Island, Dr. Sylvia earle stated "If our oceans are in trouble, we are in trouble. It is and we are."

     
  • morehood city res posted at 3:47 pm on Fri, Mar 14, 2014.

    morehood city res Posts: 301

    maybe the windmill costs put them over the edge. closing due to windmill. worse than death by firing squad.

     
  • francis posted at 10:41 am on Fri, Mar 14, 2014.

    francis Posts: 2391

    Am quite sure the NOAA Lab never contributed to the pollution problem. Ever.

     
  • MyronASmith posted at 11:38 pm on Thu, Mar 13, 2014.

    MyronASmith Posts: 75

    When staff conducted research in the past, they worked with some of Commercial Fishermen. Hopefully they will make repairs.
    Facility should be repaired and remain. No more condo's and houses right at waters edge to pollute with run off.

     
  • francis posted at 8:29 pm on Thu, Mar 13, 2014.

    francis Posts: 2391

    Oh my gosh, what will happen to the wind turbine, that was supposed to change the world as we knew it. Who would have thought.

     
  • llac posted at 6:09 pm on Thu, Mar 13, 2014.

    llac Posts: 31

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2011/03/11/gop_s_continuing_resolution_cuts_funding_for_national_weather_service_fema.html

     
  • the virginian posted at 5:40 pm on Thu, Mar 13, 2014.

    the virginian Posts: 80

    Good and shut down more of the intrusive, biased,my way fed. govt. agencies.

     
  • Core Sounder posted at 4:55 pm on Thu, Mar 13, 2014.

    Core Sounder Posts: 81

    For many many years their entire budget is used to make payroll. Money spent on actually research and expenses associated with it has to come from grants or soft money. They spent several million a few years ago for the new 2 story building but the other 2 main buildings are in very bad shape or so I have heard. The large seawall is in need of major repairs also and am not sure what shape the old bridge is in. would hate to see it shut down though because it does provide for a few jobs in Carteret County but what does one do when we must cut gov spending in order to get out budget in order. Like the ol saying, everyone wants the cuts to be made everywhere else but in their own back yard.

     
  • NC-Native-Son posted at 3:15 pm on Thu, Mar 13, 2014.

    NC-Native-Son Posts: 132

    If we can't afford to keep it open why try? Federal and state spending has been cut to the bone. Either close it or raise taxes.

     
  • morehood city res posted at 1:56 pm on Thu, Mar 13, 2014.

    morehood city res Posts: 301

    not to mention the main office building is less than 10 yrs old. maybe they will tear it all down and put up more condos, plenty of boat slips will fit around the island. Raleigh, send us your tired your hungry and your rich people.

     
  • Jeanette posted at 12:25 pm on Thu, Mar 13, 2014.

    Jeanette Posts: 69

    Why was the NOAA lab allowed to fall into such dis-repair that only now with such limited federal funds it's untenable to bring it back from the brink? [certainly in the years prior to the financial melt-down ( & the sequester) there were plenty of funds to properly maintain this important facility?]

    Ciaran Clayton, director of NOAA’s Communications and External Affairs..
    “However, this aging facility requires infrastructure repairs and improvements exceeding agency budget resources now and for the foreseeable future, ...”

     

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