NOAA’s new Pacific Marine Operations Center in Newport (shown here) could attract more than $17 million in new research grants to institutions such as the Hatfield Marine Science Center.
In addition, the grant is just one of many research projects under way in Newport, many of which require charter boat services, housing for researchers and other local services. Hatfield also partners with eight state and federal agencies involved with marine research, five different colleges at OSU and the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center.
“Marine research really has a potential to be a growing industry and to become one of the drivers here,” says Caroline Bauman, executive director of the Economic Development Alliance of Lincoln County.
Bauman is among a group of government officials, industry representatives and scientists behind the Yaquina Bay Ocean Observing Initiative, which aims to pursue economic development opportunities related to ocean-observing activities. Those include not only research, but also wave energy development, commercial fishing, seafood processing and other similar fields.
The effort toward capitalizing on Newport’s research endeavors melds nicely with some of the other ocean-based activities that have been on the upswing over the past year or so. The Port of Newport, which is the landlord for both Hatfield and the new NOAA facility, has seen a nice uptick in activity with the arrival of NOAA’s fleet. The ships are out at sea for much of the spring and summer months, but when they are in port, NOAA employees are utilizing local repair and supply services, including those at a newly renovated boatyard upriver in Toledo, frequenting local shops and restaurants and living in the city.
“We have five large vessels tied to the pier right now and gearing up for fisheries and weather research in the spring all up and down the West Coast,” says Don Mann, general manager of the port. “That’s activity that we haven’t had before and that will be an ongoing contribution to the entire region.”
The port is also one of the three largest on the Oregon Coast and is a major player in both the Oregon and Pacific fishing industry. Between 70 and 100 fishing boats pass through the port each month, and in 2010, according to Mann, Newport landed 57 million pounds of fish, ranking it No. 20 in the nation in terms of total pounds landed. The value of its annual haul that year was $30.6 million, plus an additional $32 million from the distant water fleet, which comprises vessels that fish in other waters, including Alaska.
“They make that trip twice a year, but many of them have their homes here,” Mann says, “so most of their money comes back here.”
The port is also in the middle of a multi-million dollar project to rebuild its international terminal, which could lead to increased opportunities for exporting and importing logs and other cargo, something the port hasn’t seen in more than a decade.
“We’re looking forward to the growth in marine science research,” Mann says, “but we’ve also seen a significant increase in interest in cargo, so hopefully by this time next year, [the terminal] be back in business.”