Newport, Ore., prepares to welcome NOAA

Aug 18, 2011

NEWPORT, Ore. – A fleet of federal research ships is moving from Seattle to the Oregon coast. This weekend, state and local leaders in Newport are celebrating the transition with festivities. The state of Oregon kicked in nearly $20 million to help Newport lure the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific operation center from its long-time home.

From the Yaquina Bay Bridge, a huge bridge over the harbor, you can get a good view of the new NOAA pier. It can hold up to a half-dozen ocean-going ships.

"I was at a meeting there last week. A lot of the boxes were unpacked. The coffee pot was out on the counter-top," says Mark McConnell, Newport's mayor.

He says that while the coffee's on at NOAA's new Pacific Coast ship base, the operations are still ramping up.

Moving the crew

"It's a pretty big job to move that many people and all of their 50 years of accumulation from Seattle down here," McConnell says.

"We have seen people start to re-locate here. It's slow," says Patricia Patrick-Joling, a broker with Newport-based Dolphin Real Estate. She says some NOAA employees are renting for now, since they've had trouble selling their old houses.

But she says when they are ready to buy, "this is a buyer's market now, so you can get a pretty nice house in the $200,000 to $300,000 range. I mean, a really nice house."

A NOAA spokesman says about three dozen employees have re-located so far. Eventually, four research ships and at least 60 new workers will call Newport home.

Saturday's ceremonies will be especially sweet for Oregon politicians. Newport won the contract with a cheaper bid than Seattle, Bellingham and Port Angeles, Wash.

NOAA needed a new home for its Pacific fleet after its main dock burned in Seattle. Oregon basically offered to build the agency one for free using state lottery proceeds. Bellingham challenged the bid result but lost its appeal.

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