The Northwest headquarters of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration may relocate in the next two to three years.
Clallam County, the city of Port Angeles and the Port of Port Angeles want the agency to come west to set up shop and dock its boats in Port Angeles Harbor.
The three agencies' commissioner boards and councils have agreed to begin creating an interlocal agreement to cooperatively hire a consulting firm, or firms, to create a proposal for NOAA to relocate to Port Angeles.
"There is a possibility NOAA will relocate and there is the possibility there will be a successful proposal made to keep the headquarters at Lake Union in Seattle," said Jim Jones, Clallam County administrator.
"What we hope is that they see the benefits of relocating here."
There also are benefits for the three local agencies if NOAA moves to Port Angeles, according to county and port officials.
Should NOAA relocate its headquarters to Port Angeles, it would be on the doorstep to the Pacific Ocean, where much of its research is done.
"We think there is a good chance for this proposal," said Jim McEntire, Port of Port Angeles commissioner. "NOAA is already in Port Angeles in the capacity of the (Olympic Coast) National Marine Sanctuary and the location would be central to Puget Sound and Pacific Ocean traffic."
Port of Port Angeles commissioners have designated about $100,000 toward the proposal for relocation and possible engineering costs for site planning for the headquarters, according to McEntire.
The Port Angeles City Council has designated $50,000 and, on Dec. 2, the Clallam County commissioners authorized Jones to enter into an agreement with the other two parties with an initial allocation of $25,000.
"The agreement has not been made," Jones said. "Commissioners have simply approved my ability to begin forming one with the port and the city. We are in the beginning stages."
The three agencies must have a proposal to NOAA by Jan. 25, which means they need to act quickly to form an agreement, hire consultants and coordinate information into a proposal.
Plus, Port Angeles will not be alone in the bidding process. Other cities with large harbors, such as Bellingham, will be vying to be NOAA's new home.
During the Clallam County commissioners' Dec. 1 work session, Darlene Schanfald, project coordinator with the Olympic Environmental Council, asked the commissioners to consider the potential impacts to the shoreline of a NOAA facility.
She expressed concern that the former Rayonier site might be part of the proposal and the NOAA headquarters is not yet a part of the Port Angeles Harbor planning process, which the state Department of Ecology is funding.
"This would not fit into the ecological restoration of the shoreline," she said. "Please consider the impacts of and costs of ships polluting these waters. Science is clean but the ships are not."
Jones said the Rayonier site would not be proposed for locating NOAA. He said that aside from not owning the site, the port, city and county do not believe its restoration would be complete in time for NOAA's move.
"The Rayonier site could serve as a possibility in many years to come, but for this proposal I believe we will be looking at Port of Port Angeles terminal 3 or possibly terminal 7," Jones said.
Clallam County Commissioner Mike Doherty pointed out several benefits of having NOAA in the area.
"There is a possibility of a huge community benefit here," he said. "It is a great industry to have locally, there is a possibility for new jobs, more economic stability in the region and tangential access to EPA dollars and connections to community education outlets like Huxley College and Peninsula College."
As an interlocal agreement is drawn up, more information will be available on each agency's responsibilities and how much money will be needed to create a first-class proposal for a NOAA relocation.
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