C-SPAN provided video of a strained conversation between Washington Senator Maria Cantwell and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, in which Cantwell continued to charge that the new NOAA Pacific Marine Operations Center being built at Newport should be stopped in its tracks, shows Cantwell’s demands have again been batted back by Secretary Locke.
In a conversation between Locke and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, Wyden is also seen on C-SPAN saying “My colleague from Washington seems to be interested in playing politics with NOAA’s selection process despite a long and highly detailed vetting process that led to the selection of Newport as NOAA’s new Pacific home port.” Locke responded to Wyden saying “Since the (U.S.) Inspector General has told me personally that there was nothing in his investigation’s findings that should cancel the contract award to Newport, we intend to move forward because I believe the Newport site provides the best value for the American taxpayer.”
In a late development Tuesday afternoon, U.S. Inspector General Glen Fine chimed in saying Secretary Locke is entirely correct that although there are always ways to improve any purchasing or procurement proceedure, the flaws in NOAA’s pursuit of a contract with Newport were sufficiently minor that they should stop construction on their new headquarters in Newport. Senator Cantwell had contended that her understanding of Inspector General Fine’s position was that the project should be stopped.
Locke repeated his statement he made to Cantwell, that U.S. Government buying procedures for goods, services and facilities have not been reviewed for many years, and therefore needs to be revamped and updated to reflect a more thorough and alternative-rich investigatory format to ensure the American taxpayers are getting the maximum value for their tax dollars. He added however, that he remains convinced that despite any flaws implied in NOAA’s selection process, the American taxpayers are getting tremendous value with NOAA’s selection of Newport as their new Pacific Marine Center headquarters. He said Newport’s far lower contract costs, on a long term lease alone, bear that out.
Still, Sen. Cantwell threatens to cut off Congressional funding for the project. However, critics say she’ll need to convince a lot of other senators to vote with her, which they say will prove no easy task.
Oregon clinched the deal with NOAA when it offered $19.5 million in Oregon Lottery funds that subsidized the deal to where NOAA received a 20 year lease for less than $2.5 million a year, a deal unmatched among all other competing locations, including three from Sen. Cantwell’s home state of Washington.
The $35 million, five acre South Beach facility is scheduled to welcome NOAA in June of next year. NOAA will bring with it a staff of 175, including over 100 ships’ officers and crew. It will be home port to four NOAA ships and will accomodate other oceanographic research vessels as well. An economic analysis predicts NOAA’s new home port will create hundreds of “family-wage” jobs as it pumps nearly $20 million a year into the local economy and further feeds a growing marine science base at South Beach with OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center as its hub.Share on Facebook