Comment: Build Mukilteo’s NOAA research center to fit budget

A decision to scrap a new station because its bids were over-budget calls for a change in plans.

By Bill Dickinson / For The Herald

Perhaps you saw the The Herald’s April 2 article, “Last ditch effort can’t save NOAA’s Mukilteo research center,” accompanied by a large, beautiful picture of the proposed new research building. The reason listed was “way over budget.” Also look at the front page of the March 3 Mukilteo Beacon that shows the current building that provided important research for 50 years. If you look at those pictures side by side you might wonder why the new building is so elaborate but it would be easy to understand why it is over budget. Why haven’t we re-designed the structure to fit the funds we have?

Why indeed. For 50 years important ocean research was conducted in the old building. It was a WWII structure used as Air Force barracks. Being on the shore, it had an ideal location to conduct research on Puget Sound by using salt water from our shores. This research included studies on pollution from shoreline development and stormwater runoff, ocean acidification, fish habitat and population health, and research on a variety of sea life. As the local area population grows we need to be informed of how to minimize problems for our waters. The research center provided education for local school children.

NOAA has been lobbying for 16 years to get the research station rebuilt. Keeping the research station in its current location has been included in all area city development plans. Support for rebuilding the research station includes Mukitelo Mayor Gregerson and the City Council, the Snohomish County executive Dave Somers and Snohomish County Council members, the Port of Everett CEO Lisa Lefebre, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, and others. Thus the need, the importance, and the support are evident. Failed effort? I think not. It’s time for renewed action to redesign the facility and get the cost down.

If you have frustration about this issue, it’s time to take action. Write letters demanding a reassessment of this facility and a redesign to fit the funds available.

The budgeted $40 million is a nice sum and we can’t turn away the money that NOAA had secured for this project. Remind everyone that the old structure was a WWII barracks that served us for 50 years.

Tell everyone that you want the NOAA research facility to stay here and not only to serve NOAA but also the University of Washington, Northwest fisheries, and others. Write letters to everyone mentioned in this letter and also Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. Talk to your friends and neighbors. Emphasize the importance of this research to keep our waters and sea life healthy. State the importance of a resource for local school and citizen education. Your support is vital.

Bill Dickinson lives in Everett.

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