CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University President Edward J. Ray announced today that a new $50 million center for global marine studies research and education will be built at OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.
The 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.
"Following broad consultation with numerous individuals and groups, as well as analysis of several separate reports, I have determined that the Hatfield Marine Science Center is the best site for Oregon State's new Marine Studies Initiative building," Ray said.
"Throughout the evaluation process, which included two upland sites, the safety of those who work, study and visit this building and HMSC during a potential catastrophic seismic event has been my overriding concern."
Ray said that he believed the new facility can be built to sustain a 9.0 earthquake and an associated tsunami. He also concluded that the new building can provide a safe, accessible, vertical roof-top evacuation alternative for those who are injured, disabled or otherwise unable to reach the preferred evacuation site on nearby Safe Haven Hill.
"In my view, by locating this new building at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, life and safety prospects and services for employees, students and visitors will be much improved, relative to locating the marine studies building somewhere else," Ray said. "The building might also serve as a safe destination for others who work at or visit nearby businesses or attractions, but who could not physically reach Safe Haven Hill."
The new facility will be located adjacent to the Guin Library on the HMSC campus, which is just east of the Highway 101 bridge in Newport. The location places the facility in close proximity to critically important seawater laboratories and other HMSC research facilities. Although it is within the tsunami inundation zone, OSU officials say, detailed consideration went into the siting.
To assess the prospects of major catastrophic natural events, such as a Cascadia Subduction Zone event along the Oregon coast, Ray convened a committee of university academic, research and administrative leaders. They conducted comprehensive internal and independent third-party assessments of building this facility at the Hatfield Marine Science Center campus or at alternative, higher-ground sites in Newport.
Based on its comprehensive evaluation of the alternative sites, the committee recommended that the new building be constructed at the HMSC site. Meanwhile, OSU plans to build student housing on higher ground in Newport.
OSU's Marine Studies Initiative has set a goal by 2025 to teach 500 students annually in Newport and expand marine studies research. Oregon State officials plan to open the building as early as 2018. The Oregon Legislature approved $24.8 million in state bonding last year to help fund the new building, which will become the centerpiece of OSU's marine studies initiative. Meanwhile, the OSU Foundation is raising 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.
HMSC, which is run by Oregon State, is also 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.
The Hatfield Marine Science Center celebrated its 50th anniversary in August 2015.