NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is set to move its Marine Operations Center-Atlantic from Norfolk to Naval Station Newport in Newport, Rhode Island.
Included in the move is the NOAAS Thomas Jefferson (S 222), a 208-foot deep-water survey ship used to map the seafloor.
NOAA says the development comes after several studies, including an independent business analysis in 2017, that showed it’s no longer operationally or economically feasible to keep the facility in the Mermaid City.
“The consolidation will result in more efficient ship operations and long-term cost savings through sharing common capabilities,” said NOAA spokesperson Keeley Belva. “This consolidation also aligns with NOAA’s regional facilities plans.”
A timeline for relocation has not yet been determined, but NOAA is continuing to work with the U.S. Navy to finalize plans. The future construction, from the waterfront facilities to administrative offices, is expected to total around $150 million. There will a new pier and bulkhead built for the four NOAA Atlantic Fleet research vessels that’ll be homeported there, including the Jefferson.
Two ships are currently homeported in Newport, the 209-foot Henry B. Bigelow (R 255), a fisheries research vessel, and the 224-foot Okeanos Explorer (R 337), “America’s ship for ocean exploration.”
The move was first revealed Friday by U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, who said the facility will bring approximately 200 jobs to Rhode Island. The senior Appropriations Committee member says he’s worked for over a decade to upgrade Naval Station Newport for moves like this.
“Naval Station Newport is a strategic location and the federal investments we’ve made here are really paying off,” Reed said. “Rhode Island will provide NOAA with the infrastructure and skilled marine labor force needed to keep its fleet strong.”
Despite the move, NOAA says “there will be no reduction in NOAA ship mission operations in the Norfolk and Chesapeake Bay areas” due to the relocation.
The request for proposals on the construction of the new facility was published earlier this year.