UPDATE: Quotes from Sen. Maria Cantwell, Rep. Jim McDermott and one of the Lake Union property owners have been added as have links to other news reports.
The federal Government Accounting Office today upheld the Port of Bellingham’s protest of NOAA’s planned move from Lake Union to Newport, Oregon.
The GAO agreed with Bellingham’s assertion that NOAA had violated its own guidelines on bids for the move by selecting a site that falls within a flood plain. The guidelines say the NOAA base can only be located in a flood plain unless there is no alternative. And NOAA failed to consider alternatives, the GAO says.
The GAO suggests that NOAA should comply with its own guidelines on where to locate the base. “Specifically, the agency should consider, and document, whether there was a practicable alternative to Newport’s offer,” the report says.
Michael Golden, associate general counsel in charge of bid protests at the GAO, tells the Seattle Times that, while agencies are not required to follow the GAO’s recommendations, in “99 percent” of cases they do. The Times story is here.
“I have always said that keeping the Marine Center in Seattle is in the best interest of NOAA, of the taxpayers, and of the employees, and I look forward to the next steps.”
The Seattle Times quotes Michael Denning, one of the owners of the Lake Union property, as saying the Seattle owners aren’t sure if they’ll submit a new bid. “We’re not ruling anything out,” he told the Times. “But they [NOAA] don’t want to be in Seattle as near as I can tell.”
NOAA has 60 days to respond to the GAO report.
- Crosscut.com: Bob Simmons says Bellingham is on “solid ground” in its appeal.
- OregonLive.com (the Oregonian): The Port of Newport’s general manager is quoted: “”We have a contract with NOAA. Nobody’s told us yet to stop. It’s not panic time.”
- Bellingham Herald: Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, is quoted: “The GAO’s decision doesn’t mean that Bellingham is guaranteed to be the next home for NOAA’s Marine Operations Center-Pacific, but it puts us right back in the ball game.”
- The PDF of the decision is attached to this post.
The GAO previously denied an appeal of the decision by the owners of NOAA’s Seattle base on Lake Union.