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City of Seattle
Mike McGinn (former Mayor)

SUBJECT: Elected leaders announce joint letter to keep NOAA in Seattle

7/8/2010  12:00:00 PM
Joe Mirabella  (206)733-9810

Elected leaders announce joint letter to keep NOAA in Seattle
Decision to move costs taxpayers millions

SEATTLE - Mayor Mike McGinn joined with Congressman Jim McDermott, City Councilmember Jean Godden, other elected officials and industry leaders to urge US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to intervene and seriously consider use of existing federal facilities in Seattle for NOAA's Marine Operations Center-Pacific homeport in light of the Department of Commerce's Inspector General Report.

The joint letter signed today is the latest effort of a years-long program to retain the marine center in Seattle, where it has made its home for more than 50 years. The Department of Commerce's Inspector General Report concluded that NOAA violated its own rules by not considering existing federal facilities before starting the process that led to choosing Newport, Oregon as their homeport.

"We urge Secretary of Commerce Locke to take a look again at NOAA's process and consider existing federal facilities for the Marine Operations Center-Pacific homeport," said Mayor McGinn. "We believe this action will save taxpayers millions of dollars. I thank Senator Cantwell and Congressman McDermott for their leadership in holding the federal government accountable for this deeply flawed process."

The group gathered at a city park across the Duwamish River from Federal Center South, one of the two existing federal facilities that could house the NOAA fleet. They restated that consolidating NOAA's operations in Seattle at existing federal facilities is the best option for NOAA to achieve its mission and the best deal for federal taxpayers.

"I have long held that it was both bad judgment and bad policy for NOAA to ignore so many critical factors when deciding a location for its Marine Operations Center-Pacific," Rep. McDermott said. "Now both the Government Accountability Office and the Commerce Department's own Inspector General have confirmed what many of us have known for a long time: this process was badly botched from the beginning."

In August, 2009, NOAA announced its decision to move from Seattle, awarding a 20-year lease to the Port of Newport, Ore. That decision was appealed to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and sustained because NOAA violated its own solicitation rules by proposing a facility in a floodplain.

In February, 2010, the City of Seattle originally proposed that the Department of Commerce and NOAA include the Western Regional Center at Sand Point and Federal Center South in their evaluation of potential sites.

"The city's proposal would have saved tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, but fell on deaf ears at the Department of Commerce," said Councilmember Godden. "In light of the Inspector General's report, we insist on a fair review."

Retaining the marine center in Seattle would preserve approximately 1,450 well paid direct and indirect jobs and $180 million in economic activity in the area.

"It makes good business sense for the marine center to remain in Seattle," said Admiral John Lockwood, ret., Director, Marketing and Business Development, Todd Pacific Shipyards.  "Our community offers freshwater moorage, an experienced and plentiful workforce, proximity to a robust maritime industrial base, and strategic access to NOAA's Western Regional Center at Sandpoint and UW researchers."

There is broad community backing to retain the marine center in Seattle. Neighborhood groups such as Friends of Magnuson Park and the Laurelhurst Community Club are supportive of expanded NOAA operations at Western Regional Center at Sand Point and Federal Center South.

Read the Joint Letter - Acrobat PDF

Read the Executive Summary - Acrobat PDF

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Office of the Mayor

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