Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, February 24, 2005

NOAA relocating to Ford Island

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced yesterday that it has selected Ford Island for a new $240 million Pacific regional center that would bring together offices now spread across O'ahu.

NOAA in Hawai'i

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration facilities in Hawai'i include:

• National Weather Service Pacific Region Headquarters

• Hagemeyer Pacific Tsunami Warning Center

• Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary office

• Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center

The center, if it passes federal environmental review, would be home to more than 500 employees when it is completed by 2010. NOAA, which hopes to restore historic buildings used at Ford Island during World War II, had been looking for a site with waterfront access to accommodate its research ships.

According to NOAA, the center will include office and research space, treatment facilities for marine mammals and other sea life, a visitor's center and library and a scientific display area. Some of the NOAA functions that likely will be moved to the center are regional fisheries, weather, humpback whale and coral reef ecosystem monitoring.

Conrad Lautenbacher, a retired Navy vice admiral who is the administrator of NOAA, said the new center "will enhance technical and scientific research and improve agency coordination."

U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye, D-Hawai'i, called it a "substantial and enduring investment."

The senator also toured the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in 'Ewa Beach yesterday morning and said it is possible that it, too, could move to Ford Island.

Inouye, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, has introduced a bill that would upgrade the nation's tsunami warning system. The senator said tsunami preparedness was not a federal priority until the lesson of the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami in December.

"The iron is hot," Inouye said of interest now.

Inouye said he wants to enhance the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center so it would have crews to monitor earthquakes and tidal patterns around the clock. Charles McCreery, the geophysicist in charge at the center, said he likely would need to double his staff of eight and get money for additional space if the center had 24-hour coverage. The staff is now alerted by beeper if there is any potential tsunami activity after hours.

Reach Derrick DePledge at 525-8070 or ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com.