Cantwell irked with NOAA

By:  Staff Writer
Source: Puget Sound Business Journal

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., is upset with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), claiming the federal agency is withholding information regarding its decision to move a Pacific Ocean operations center from Seattle to Oregon.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) put on hold a NOAA decision to move a marine operations center — and its 175 jobs — from Seattle’s Lake Union to Newport, Ore., beginning in 2011. Cantwell said she asked NOAA for more information about the move two months ago but hasn’t heard back from the agency. Cantwell is chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, which has oversight authority over NOAA.

The GAO upheld a protest by the Port of Bellingham, which wants the operation to move to Bellingham. Port officials pointed out in the protest that the Newport site is located in a flood plain area, which violated NOAA’s official Solicitation for Offers (SFO). The solicitation said that sites under consideration for the new marine operations center could not be located in a flood plain.

‘NOAA’s unwillingness to answer basic questions makes me concerned there may be even bigger problems that haven’t yet come to light. If moving NOAA’s ships is truly the right decision for NOAA, then they shouldn’t have anything to hide,” Cantwell said in a statement.

NOAA’s marine operations center-Pacific operations provides management of 10 vessels and serves as the home port for NOAA ships including the Rainier, Miller Freeman and McArthur II.