NOAA awards bid to build Newport Marine Operations Center. When it's planned to be complete

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The new NOAA facility planned at Naval Station Newport is moving closer to construction.

The U.S. Navy, on behalf of NOAA, announced it has awarded $146,778,932 to Skanska USA, from New York, to design and build the new facility that will eventually be the new home of NOAA’s Marine Operations Center – Atlantic.

NOAA said that while the details of the facility’s design are still being finalized, requirements include having a pier that will accommodate four large vessels, a floating dock for smaller vessels, space for vessel repairs and parking and a building to be used for shoreside support and as a warehouse. Construction is anticipated to be completed by 2027.

"The Biden-Harris Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act, a key pillar of Bidenomics, has made it possible for NOAA to make more crucial investments in infrastructure over the coming decade,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in a statement. “As we work to combat the climate crisis, building climate resilient facilities, like this one in Rhode Island, is critical to ensuring our infrastructure stands the test of time.”

A proposed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration base at Naval Station Newport
A proposed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration base at Naval Station Newport

The design and construction of the facility is funded in part by the Inflation Reduction Act.

The project is expected to create 200 jobs, The Providence Journal reported in March, although some of them will be at sea for much of the year. The new base will be built on 5 acres at Naval Station Newport, and shoreside employees there will include marine engineers, electrical technicians, medical personnel, budget specialists and human resources administrators.

“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,” said 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.”

"Naval Station Newport looks forward to continuing its support for the missions of NOAA from our installation waterfront,” stated Capt. Henry Roenke, the installation commander, in a statement. “An expanded NOAA footprint here punctuates the value and diversity of the missions and partners at the base and makes the Naval Station a vital community and asset for military and non-military operations.”

The center and ships are an operational component of NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations. The ships in NOAA’s Atlantic fleet collect data essential to protecting marine mammals, coral reefs and historic shipwrecks, managing commercial fisheries, understanding climate change and producing nautical charts that help keep mariners safe. NOAA ships also deploy and help maintain buoys that gather oceanographic and weather information and warn of tsunamis.

"I’ve been proud to work with Secretary Raimondo and her predecessors over several years to secure the commitment and the funding to create this hub for ocean research at Naval Station Newport. This announcement marks another win for the Ocean State, for NOAA, and for local workers as we develop our Blue Economy. Soon we’ll be able to put steel in the ground and put Rhode Islanders to work,” said Sen. Jack Reed in a statement, who has worked with NOAA for over a decade to develop a permanent NOAA homeport and marine operations center in Rhode Island.”

NOAA has been consolidating its port facilities, and Reed previously said he lobbied to have the new port established in Rhode Island. Two NOAA ships– the 209-foot Henry B. Bigelow, which does fisheries research, and the 224-foot Okeanos Explorer, which does seafloor mapping –. are already based in Newport and the U.S. Maritime Resource Center, where NOAA's deck officers are trained, is in neighboring Middletown.

Eventually, the 208-foot, deep-water hydrographic survey ship Thomas Jefferson and 244-foot Discoverer, under construction, will also be based in Newport.

This contract was awarded following a request for proposals that was open from January to August 2023.

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: NOAA Marine Operations Center in Newport closer to construction