PROVIDENCE — The federal government is “finalizing plans” to move a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration marine operations center from Virginia to Naval Station Newport, according to US Senator Jack Reed.
Reed said the move from Norfolk, Va., to Newport would mean a $150 million federal investment and 200 jobs in Rhode Island.
“This is a major win for Rhode Island and our Blue Economy that will help NOAA improve mission fulfillment while achieving savings through consolidation and enhancing collaboration with the Navy, URI, the Coast Guard, and leading ocean scientists and marine businesses,” Reed, a Democrat, said in a news release Wednesday touting the development, as well as his role in it.
NOAA spokeswoman Keeley Belva confirmed that the agency had decided to relocate the center to Newport.
“At this time, NOAA continues to work closely with the US Navy to finalize plans for the new facility,” Belva said Wednesday in an e-mail.
NOAA’s Marine Operations Center – Atlantic coordinates the agency’s ships in the Atlantic Ocean and Great Lakes. It also serves as the home of some NOAA flagship research vessels. The land-based Atlantic marine operations center will be staffed by people from NOAA and civilians who “provide logistical, engineering, electronics, maintenance, and administrative support to all the ships in NOAA’s Atlantic Fleet,” Reed’s office said.
NOAA is involved in everything from weather forecasting to regulating wind power — “America’s environmental intelligence agency,” as Reed described it. It falls under former Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo’s US Commerce Department.
According to Reed’s office, NOAA had planned to upgrade the Atlantic operations center, as well as its fleet. It became possible at Naval Station Newport because of years of upgrades there, as well as funding through the Inflation Reduction Act and other federal spending, Reed’s office said. NOAA has two ships at Naval Station Newport’s Pier 2 on Narragansett Bay already, with two more on the way to Newport, according to Reed. A site on five acres of federal land will accommodate those vessels, and more in the future, Reed’s office said.
The new NOAA facility will be 22,219 square feet, Reed’s office said. The project also includes new pier facilities, he said.
Reed’s office said the work outlined in Wednesday’s announcement does not move assets from NOAA’s presence in Woods Hole, Mass., to Rhode Island.
The US Maritime Resource Center, where NOAA’s uniformed deck officers are trained, is in Middletown. And, Reed’s office said, NOAA is planning to upgrade and expand its Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s Narragansett Laboratory to help make way for its offshore wind and fisheries science program.
This story has been updated to add a comment from NOAA.