Paul McElhany points out how far the new facility he heads would extend past the current building in 2019 at Northwest Fisheries Science Center’s Mukilteo Research Station. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Paul McElhany points out how far the new facility he heads would extend past the current building in 2019 at Northwest Fisheries Science Center’s Mukilteo Research Station. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Oh, crab! NOAA’s Mukilteo waterfront fish lab won’t be rebuilt

Bids for a new Northwest Fisheries Science Center research station are too high. Are condos next?

MUKILTEO — That waterfront is losing more than an important eyesore.

Plans were scrapped when bids came in too high for a new Mukilteo Research Station to replace the weathered two-story hovel where scientists studied climate change effects, ocean acidification and impacts on fish health.

“We sought contractor bids to rebuild the facility on-site. Unfortunately, the bids greatly exceeded the funds available for the project,” Michael Milstein, a spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Wednesday. He would not give any bid figures.

The future of the 1.1-acre federal property on Front Street is uncertain. It could possibly end up in private hands and become condos or a parking lot.

About $40 million had been appropriated by Congress, $4.5 million in 2017 for design and site work, and $35.5 million in 2019 for completion of a new facility that is part of Northwest Fisheries Science Center.

A modern center with public access was targeted to open in 2022 as part of the Mukilteo downtown master plan.

The parcel is next to the Silver Cloud Inn, two doors down from Ivar’s. The new ferry terminal is on the other side.

Prime real estate in the scheme of things.

A worker on Tuesday covers windows with boards on the back side of the Mukilteo Research Station that will be torn down and not be rebuilt. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

A worker on Tuesday covers windows with boards on the back side of the Mukilteo Research Station that will be torn down and not be rebuilt. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

“Moving forward, we will be engaged to make sure the property fits our waterfront vision, whether that is with the city as owner, or a private owner,” Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson said. “Our waterfront is a mix of public and private uses, and this will be no different.”

The dilapidated structure has peeling paint, creaky floors and a foundation bolstered by temporary supports. It was built as a temporary Air Force barrack during World War II to support a fuel depot. NOAA began using the building for research in the 1970s and took over ownership in the 2000s. Other holdings by the Air Force’s 40-acre spread went to the city of Mukilteo, Washington State Department of Transportation, Tulalip Tribes and Port of Everett for waterfront projects.

A board, shown here in 2019 displays the now-scrapped plans for the proposed new Northwest Fisheries Science Center’s Mukilteo Research Station. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

A board, shown here in 2019 displays the now-scrapped plans for the proposed new Northwest Fisheries Science Center’s Mukilteo Research Station. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

When operational, the center’s spread included a crusty pier, rusty storage tanks and a bone yard where old experiments and parts go to die. Amid a tangled mess of hoses and cords were research labs with bubbly tubs where sea organisms were grown in saltwater. The center was also used by scientists to study the effects of oil and urban runoff.

Steve Schmalz, a former Mukilteo City Councilman, said the proposal for a new center was “an exciting part of the waterfront.”

“We are losing a gem,” he said. “It’s an important facility not only because of the research and science. It’s an education center for students and parents to learn a lot about Puget Sound. A lot of kids, their eyes get wide open.”

He said residents were surprised and saddened by the loss.

“Why wasn’t the public made aware of this decision in January? We could have lobbied our federal officials,” he said.

Paul McElhany picks up a container holding some of his lab’s current Dungeness crab in one of the outer buildings at Northwest Fisheries Science Center’s Mukilteo Research Station. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Paul McElhany picks up a container holding some of his lab’s current Dungeness crab in one of the outer buildings at Northwest Fisheries Science Center’s Mukilteo Research Station. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

The building was slated for demolition in mid-2020. Plans were delayed due to COVID-19. The windows are boarded. Fences and “No Trespassing” signs keep onlookers at bay.

Employees, who have been working remotely, will be relocated to other centers and no jobs will be cut.

“The Mukilteo Research Station leaves an important legacy of marine research in Puget Sound,” Milstein said.

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Jesse L. Hartman (Everett Police Department)
Suspect in fatal Everett shooting captured at U.S. border

Jesse Hartman was arrested in California as he tried to re-enter the country from Mexico.

The state House transportation budget proposes $15,000,000 to widen state improving Highway 524 between 24th Avenue West in Lynnwood and 9th Avenue SE.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Who wants a wider Highway 524 between Bothell and Lynnwood?

The project list includes expanding the three-mile, two-lane road between Bothell and Lynnwood.

People on jet skis and boats drive past the Hannah Marie, formerly called the Midas, that was run aground along the banks of the Snohomish River on Tuesday, July 3, 2018 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett couple writes check to clean up the Snohomish River

Phil and Kelly Johnson have donated $50,000 to the county project that removes derelict vessels.

FILE - This Monday, June 17, 2019, file photo shows 5-mg pills of Oxycodone. While the nation's attorneys general debate a legal settlement with Purdue Pharma, the opioid epidemic associated with the company's blockbuster painkiller OxyContin rages on. The drugs still kill tens of thousands of people each year with no end in sight. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)
High court ruling spurs effort to retool state’s drug laws

Meanwhile, the Blake decision has gotten people out jail, charges dismissed and possibly clemency for some.

Gabriel van Winkle, center, struggles with lifting a bag of rice weighing nearly half his weight as he and volunteers help move the Granite Falls Food Bank from their old location to a new one on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 in Granite Falls, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
New digs will give Granite Falls nonprofit room to grow

The small town’s community coalition and food bank have found a home on school district grounds.

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
5 wrinkles for lawmakers to iron out in session’s last days

Here’s what’s happening on Day 92 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

Marysville police investigating gunshots that injured man

The Marysville man, 62, suffered a wound to his left knee and was treated at a hospital.

(Getty Images)
How to get vaccinated in Snohomish County

Availability of doses is always changing, so keep checking back.

Most Read