CORVALLIS, Ore. - The Oregon Legislature has approved $24.8 million in state bonding to help fund a new building at Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport that will be a centerpiece for research and education on critical issues facing coastal communities.
The $50 million, 100,000-square-foot facility is an integral part of OSU's ambitious Marine Studies Initiative, designed to educate students and conduct research on marine-related issues, from rising sea levels and ocean acidification to sustainable fisheries and economic stability.
Oregon State officials plan to begin construction on the new building in 2016/17 and open as early as 2018. The OSU Foundation will raise an additional $40 million in private funding for the Marine Studies Initiative - $25 million to match state funds for the new building and another $15 million to support related programs. Donors have pledged more than 75 percent of the total to date.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown will need to sign the legislation before it becomes official.
"This is an investment that will benefit not only higher education, but the research needs and the economic vitality for the entire coast," said OSU President Ed Ray. "The support and leadership of the coastal legislators has been invaluable."
Coastal legislators include senators Betsy Johnson, Arnie Roblan, and Jeff Kruse; and representatives Wayne Krieger, Caddy McKeown, Deborah Boone and David Gomberg.
"This new building is essential to the university's goals of expanding education and research on marine-related issues," said Bob Cowen, director of the Hatfield Marine Science Center. "There are so many critical issues facing coastal communities today - from economic stress tied to variable fish stocks to concerns over tsunamis, ocean acidification, rising sea levels, erosion and others."
"The expansion is long overdue," added Cowen, who is co-leader of the Marine Studies Initiative. "Although we've added a couple of buildings earmarked for state or federal agencies, it's been decades since Oregon State has added capacity at the Hatfield Marine Science Center campus."
Cowen said one area of focus for expansion will the overarching theme of coastal resilience.
"Geology students may come here to study coastal erosion, oceanography students may explore sea level rise, engineers might look at options for coastal buildings that are resistant to tsunamis or tidal surge, and sociologists could lead the way on how communities respond to a disaster," Cowen said.
The new facility will be located adjacent to the Guin Library on the HMSC campus, which is just east of the Highway 101 bridge over Yaquina Bay in Newport. The location places the facility in close proximity to critically important saltwater laboratories and other HMSC research facilities. It is within the tsunami inundation zone, OSU officials say, though careful consideration went into the siting.
"We are very much aware of the various geological hazards the Pacific Ocean presents and we choose to use the siting as an educational and design opportunity," Cowen said. "Our focus is on life safety. We believe we can be a model for anticipating a seismic event, and for how to live safely and productively in a tsunami zone. We want to be a showcase for earthquake and tsunami preparedness."
OSU's Marine Studies Initiative has set a goal to teach 500 students at the Hatfield center by 2025, and expand research at the facility, which is run by Oregon State and shared by several agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey.
The multiple agencies, along with Hatfield's saltwater research laboratories and ship operations, make it one of the most important marine science facilities in the country - and the combination provides unique opportunities for OSU students.
"One of the goals of the Marine Studies Initiative is to really broaden various disciplines across the university," said Jack Barth, associate dean of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and co-leader of the Marine Studies Initiative. "We'll still focus on fisheries, marine biology, ocean processes and other science-related issues, but we see some exciting areas into which we could expand including economics, social and public policies, ocean engineering and others.
"In fact, the new marine studies degree will be housed in the College of Liberal Arts," Barth added.
Cowen said the new facility will enable OSU to expand its teaching and research capacity at Hatfield by 20-25 faculty members. On the research side, principal investigators will work with graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and technicians, further expanding the center's capacity. "Right now, OSU has about 12-14 research faculty on-site," Cowen said, "so we're talking about a significant increase."
The new building will have several large spaces that will accommodate scientific talks and community workshops focused on marine issues.
The Hatfield Marine Science Center celebrates its 50th anniversary in August. More information on the event is available at http://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/main/50th-anniversary-hmsc