NOAA to go forward with center at Lena Point

Posted: Thursday, March 27, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) -- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is going forward with plans for a scaled-down fisheries research center at Lena Point.

NOAA spokeswoman Sheela McLean said the agency will scale the project to fit within the existing $51 million budget. The center will be smaller than planned and a redesign could take 12 to 14 months, she said. The project will be rebid.

NOAA canceled bids on the project last summer when the construction costs came in $6 million over budget. During the past nine months, officials reviewed options for Lena Point and the existing federal fisheries lab at Auke Bay.

NOAA Administrator and Vice Adm. Conrad Lautenbacher told Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens on Tuesday afternoon that the agency will build at Lena Point.

''We took a hard look at our options within the existing budget and Lena Point continues to have the best potential to meet our future needs,'' Lautenbacher said. ''Lena Point allows colocation with the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences and ensures that we keep commitments to the city and borough of Juneau.''

Lena Point has room for expansion in the longterm, which is one reason NOAA decided on the site, McLean added. Work on the fisheries center started in 1992. The overall budget was cut from $78 to $51 million as plans evolved.

UAF wants to build an $18 million, 41,500-square-foot research facility at Lena Point for classes and research in connection with the NOAA center. The city of Juneau contributed land at Lena Point for the center and helped build a 1.2-mile road to the site.

The National Marine Fisheries Service's lab at Auke Bay houses 95 people and last year's plans would have put 107 people at a 61,000-square-foot Lena Point lab in 2004.

McLean said it's too early to tell how many people might move to Lena Point under a re-scaled project. Earlier plans called for keeping some limited research at Auke Bay.

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