If Senator Wyden had his way, the NOAA would still be headed south.
Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) is down for his. And by that, I mean his constituents, whose side he's jumped in on in the ongoing political slapfight between the Port of Newport (Oregon) and the Port of Bellingham over which will ultimately become the new home of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's (NOAA) Pacific Operations Center.
Previously, the Port of Newport was announced as the winning bidder in the sweepstakes to land the center--along with the $19 million in economic activity that it generates--once its Seattle lease expires in 2011. Rival bidder the Port of Bellingham then filed a complaint with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), arguing that the pier Newport had offered to build for NOAA was in a floodplain. The GAO responded by putting a hold on the process,while the administrators at the Port of Bellingham presumably patted themselves on the back for a successful bit of political gamesmanship.
But on Monday, Senator Wyden decided to weigh in, sending a letter to U.S. Department of Commerce head Gary Locke Monday to point out that the Bay of Bellingham isn't exactly free from environmental hazards either.
According to Wyeth, the area nearby the Port of Bellingham is home to 12 toxic environmental cleanup areas, plus one Superfund site. Needless to say, the letter included the suggestion that this might disqualify Bellingham as a potential site for the center.
From the letter:
I do not believe the environmental hazards within the Port of Bellingham were taken into full consideration in the original NOAA decision-making process. In its review of the proposals NOAA considered the environmental conditions of the sites under consideration, but did not note he troubling environmental conditions that surround the proposed Bellingham site. When these problem [sic] are taken into account, however, it makes NOAA's selection of Newport look that much better.
Calls to the Port of Bellingham for comment weren't immediately returned. Meanwhile, NOAA has been ordered to review the bidding process with respect to the the Port of Bellingham's complaint. The review is scheduled to be completed by May 28.