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NOAA still chooses Oregon

Agency rejects sites in Washington state

GRANTS PASS, Ore. – The nation’s ocean research agency has given its final answer on the new home base for its West Coast research fleet, and it is the same as the first answer: the port of Newport on the central Oregon Coast.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued its final determination Thursday in the long-running political battle over where the ships would be based after a 2006 dock fire ruled out keeping them in Seattle.

Despite objections raised by alternative sites in Washington state and their representatives in Congress, the final analysis found that the Newport site chosen last August still offered the best value to the government, with the highest technical rating and lowest price when compared with sites in Washington.

Construction has been going on for months at the Newport site, where members of the Oregon congressional delegation and Gov. Ted Kulongoski joined local officials Thursday for ceremonies marking the decision.

“People have been saying about the folks in Newport, ‘You think you’re gonna win this thing, you’re a few fish short of your limit,’ ” U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a telephone interview. “This was the case of good policy and winning on the merits beating politics.”

Wyden added that a pending inspector general’s report could not overturn NOAA’s final determination.

A spokesman for Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who called for the inspector general’s report, said the decision was expected but disappointing.