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NOAA research base completion now slated for 2027

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NOAA research base completion now slated for 2027

Dec 06, 2023 | 12:01 pm ET
By Nancy Lavin
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NOAA research base completion now slated for 2027
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NOAA's 209-foot fisheries vessel Henry B. Bigelow is shown docked at the Newport Naval Station in Middletown in this 2016 photo. (Janine L. Weisman/Rhode Island Current)

Plans to relocate a federal marine operations and research base to Newport are taking shape, although the project will take longer than first anticipated.

The U.S. Navy, on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), announced on Tuesday it awarded a $146.8 million contract to a New York company to design and build the new NOAA facility at the Newport Naval Station. Plans to relocate NOAA’s Marine Operations Center from Norfolk, Virginia to Newport were first announced in March, with an anticipated two-year construction phase.

NOAA to open $150M marine research base in Newport

Now, NOAA is aiming to finish the project by 2027. The new facility design is still being finalized, but will include a pier that can fit four large vessels, a floating dock, space for vessel repair, parking and a building for storage and “shoreside support,” the release stated.

The project, funded partly through the Inflation Reduction Act, will bring about 200 jobs to the Ocean State, and aims to grow Rhode Island’s foothold in the emerging blue economy.

Rhode Island already houses two flagship federal research vessels, based out of the Newport Naval Station and the U.S. Maritime Resource Center in Middletown: the 209-foot fisheries vessel Henry B. Bigelow and the 224-foot Okeanos Explorer, which conducts research and operations including seafloor mapping. 

Under the planned relocation, two more NOAA ships will be stationed at NAVSTA Newport. 

“By co-locating with Naval Station Newport, we are able to make our ship operations more efficient and increase long-term cost savings through sharing common capabilities,” NOAA Corps Rear Admiral Nancy Hann, director of NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations and the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, said in a statement. “We are excited to take this step in creating a state-of-the-art marine operations center for NOAA in Rhode Island.”

The construction contract with New York-based Skanska USA was the result of a competitive bidding process that closed in August, according to NOAA.

NOAA falls under the U.S. Department of Commerce, headed by former Gov. Gina M. Raimondo. Its duties include weather forecasting, marine research and regulation of the offshore wind industry.