Oregon state legislators are considering House Bill 3451 to establish at OSU an Oceangoing Research Vessel Program. This bill fits into a larger multiyear effort to grow the marine science economic sector for Oregon. It began over four decades ago with the establishment of the Hatfield Marine Science Center, initiated with investments from the state of Oregon and Oregon State University. In 2008, a group of regional leaders, led by then HMSC director George Boehlert, set the goal to establish Newport, Oregon as a hub for ocean observing in the Pacific Northwest. Since then the results have been remarkable. With state help, Newport and the central Oregon coast have obtained the following federally funded programs:
- NOAA Marine Operations Center – Pacific – a 20 year port lease with $19M annual impact to our region in jobs, products, and services
- National Science Foundation Ocean Observatories Initiative Endurance Array – multimillion dollar, five year build out with 25 year operation and maintenance
- Pacific Marine Energy Center – multimillion dollar, 20 year program
Today, marine science research is a significant economic force in Oregon. In the greater Newport region alone, it accounts for $60M in annual revenues, third in revenues behind fishing and tourism.
The next stop for our region is replacing OSU’s research vessel Oceanus, forty years old, which annually contributes $3.6M to our local economy. OSU has been given a remarkable opportunity under a $3M contract with the NSF to design the next class of regional research vessels. But designing a ship does not guarantee OSU will receive a new vessel. The federal government is always looking for ways to cut costs, and states that support their marine research will be favored over states that do not.
This program is important for Oregon. It builds on the momentum underway, and will ensure continued premier ocean research at OSU for the next thirty plus years.
And what is the effect of not funding this? Possible loss of a replacement vessel for the R/V Oceanus. And a diminishing leadership role OSU is playing in oceanographic research.
The amount request is modest, and the return to Oregon is huge. Oregon legislators should pass HB 3541, and help to secure Oregon’s future in marine science research.