NOAA says it will review move from Lake Union to Oregon

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced on Friday that it will review whether there was a “practical alternative” to awarding a lease to Newport, Oregon, for its Pacific fleet.

NOAA announced last August that it was moving its base from Lake Union, where its been based for over 40 years, to the Oregon coastal port.

The review comes in response to a decision by the Government Accounting Office (GAO) in December sustaining a protest of the move by the Port of Bellingham, one of the sites bidding for the NOAA base. The GAO’s decision hinged on the fact that part of the proposed NOAA base would be in a 100-year flood plain, which is a violation of federal regulations.

In a press release, NOAA’s chief administrative officer, William F. Broglie, said:

“NOAA is proceeding with all appropriate actions and intends to fully comply with GAO’s decision and recommended corrective actions.”

The press release says NOAA will:

  • Conduct an analysis of the proposals from 1801 Fairview Avenue East LLC (owners of the Lake Union base), the Port of Bellingham and the Port of Port Angeles to “determine if there is a practicable alternative that does not involve development in a base floodplain, and otherwise presents a feasible selection award under the solicitation for offers.” FEMA will make an analysis for NOAA of the floodplain issue as it relates to the four proposed locations.
  • If there is no alternative to Newport, NOAA will ask the General Services Administration to review its assessment to make sure it followed “generally-accepted GSA standards in reaching its conclusions.”
  • If there is no alternative to Newport, NOAA will post its draft assessment, including Newport’s plans to minimize flood plain impact, on its Web site. Public comment would be taken for 30 days
  • After the public comment period, “ NOAA would review comments and finalize the assessment report and make a final determination.”

NOAA expects to have this done by May 28.

The NOAA press release concludes:

GAO’s decision and recommendation did not require reversal of the award to Newport nor slowdown or stoppage of planned work.

OregonLive.com has comments from Newport officials and this from Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden:

“This is what agencies routinely do when the GAO makes recommendations,” Wyden said. “Now, Newport won this on the merits. It has been thoroughly vetted. I had a good, long talk with Secretary Locke (Gary Locke, Secretary of Commerce) today and I am confident that this is another step closer to establishing the NOAA fleet in Newport because Newport has been consistently, based on the evidence, the best and most cost effective home for the NOAA fleet.” 

Our previous posts on the NOAA move are here.