NOAA Thumbs Its Nose at 'Rising Political Star' Maria Cantwell

NOAA to Cantwell: We'll put our boats wherever we damn well please.
The Daily Beast named junior Senator Maria Cantwell a rising political star, but apparently the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is unimpressed.

The Oregon Daily Journal of Commerce reports that NOAA is proceeding with plans to move its 175-employee Pacific Marine Operations Center from South Lake Union to Newport, Ore., despite Cantwell's continued threats to drag NOAA in front of her Senate committee to question the legitimacy of that decision.

With its Seattle lease set to expire in 2011, NOAA was wooed to Newport with promises of a cheap lease and a new pier. Bellingham, which also wants NOAA to locate at its port, protested the decision to the Government Accountability Office, saying the proposed Newport pier was in a floodplain.

The GAO recently found that Bellingham was right, and suggested NOAA rethink the move to Oregon. But so far, NOAA and Newport appear to be ignoring that advice.

Cantwell has been the most vigorous in fighting to reverse the decision. She accused NOAA of withholding records related to its decision to move to Oregon, and she has threatened to hold hearings on the matter in her Senate committee (which oversees NOAA).

But the GAO doesn't have the ability to actually force anything to happen. And apparently NOAA isn't afraid of any hearings Cantwell might hold.

Cantwell spokesperson John Diamond says he is looking into who might have the power to actually force the agency to change its planned destination (though that still might not help Seattle). But for now, the lease signed by NOAA and Newport is still valid.

NOAA spokesperson David Hall says by e-mail that his agency is still considering the GAO decision. But Don Mann, Port of Newport general manager, told the Daily Journal that no one has asked the Port to hold off on construction, which is scheduled to begin next month.

You'd think a "rising star" might be able to strike a little fear into some hearts, or at least command a little more respect.

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