In a significant development for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Skanska USA has been awarded a lucrative design-build contract worth nearly $147 million. This contract marks a substantial step forward in the construction of NOAA's new Marine Operations Center-Atlantic, located at the Naval Station Newport in Newport, Rhode Island.
An Overview of the New Facility
The planned complex is poised to become a pivotal hub for NOAA's operations in the Atlantic. It will encompass a variety of features designed to bolster NOAA's marine and research capabilities. These include:
- A multi-functional building for shoreside support and warehouse needs.
- A pier designed to accommodate four large vessels, crucial for NOAA's expanding fleet.
- A floating dock for smaller vessels, enhancing operational flexibility.
- Dedicated vessel repair spaces, ensuring maintenance and efficiency of the fleet.
- Ample parking facilities for staff and visitors.
An illustration of the new NOAA marine operations center planned for Naval Station Newport in Rhode Island. (Image credit: Burns & McDonnell)
NOAA has indicated that while these elements form the core of the facility's design, further refinements and additions are expected as the project progresses.
The Role of the New Center
This new center is an integral part of NOAA's Marine and Aviation Operations, which boasts a fleet of 15 research and survey ships. These vessels are instrumental in a range of vital activities, including fishery surveys, nautical charting, and climate studies. The new facility will specifically serve the Atlantic fleet, which plays a key role in managing fisheries, studying coral reefs, exploring historic shipwrecks, and monitoring marine mammals.
Additionally, NOAA's Atlantic fleet is responsible for managing buoys that collect crucial oceanographic and weather data, contributing to tsunami warnings and climate research.
Strategic Location and Cost-Efficiency
Rear Admiral Nancy Hann, director of NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations, emphasized the strategic benefits of the new location. By co-locating with the Naval Station Newport, NOAA expects to enhance the efficiency of ship operations and achieve significant long-term cost savings through shared resources and capabilities.
Funding and Broader Implications
Part of the funding for this ambitious project comes from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which has allocated over $3 billion to NOAA for various projects. This act focuses on investments in climate, energy, and resilience-related programs, underscoring the government's commitment to environmental and oceanic research.
The IRA is also funding other NOAA projects across the country, including:
- Pier reconstruction in Charleston, South Carolina.
- Upgrades to the visitor center at the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary in San Francisco.
- Construction of new facilities at the Mallows Bay and Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuaries in Maryland and Washington, respectively.
The construction of the new NOAA Marine Operations Center-Atlantic in Rhode Island represents a significant investment in marine research and operations. With its strategic location and state-of-the-art facilities, the center is poised to play a crucial role in advancing NOAA's mission and enhancing our understanding of the oceans and climate. The involvement of Skanska USA in this project further underscores the collaboration between government and private sectors in pursuing large-scale, impactful initiatives.
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