Mukilteo Beacon - Your Hometown News Source

By David Pan 

Mukilteo Research Station shut down, plans for new building shelved due to costs

Rep. Larsen to make last ditch funding appeal


Last updated 3/11/2021 at 11:10am


The Northwest Fisheries Science Center's Mukilteo Research Station has been shut down due to building safety concerns. Plans to rebuild the 70-plus year-old facility are not proceeding because costs have exceeded the budgeted amount for the project.

More big changes are on the way for the Mukilteo waterfront.

The Northwest Fisheries Science Center's Mukilteo Research Station has been shut down due to building safety concerns. The aging facility is located near Ivar's and the Silver Cloud Inn, and close to the new Mukilteo Ferry Terminal. Plans to construct a new building likely will not be moving forward because the proposed costs have exceeded the funds budgeted for the project.

The research station, operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has been located on the Mukilteo site since the 1970s, and NOAA took over ownership of the building in the 2000s. The building is more than 70 years old.

The closure of the NOAA site comes just a couple of months after the opening of the new Mukilteo Ferry Terminal. The future of the property is unclear, and the disposal process could take years.

"The building has deteriorated with age, and we ultimately closed it for safety reasons," said NOAA Public Affairs Officer Michael Milstein.

Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson described the potential loss of the research station as a big disappointment.

Rep. Rick Larsen (D-2nd District) plans to submit a request for the additional funding needed to construct the new building, but Gregerson is not optimistic on reviving the project. She described Larsen's request as a last-ditch effort to keep the research facility in Mukilteo.

"It looks like it won't happen," Gregerson said.

Gregerson added that she hasn't heard the exact figures, but it is her understanding that the budgeted amount is about 25% less than one of the bids submitted.

NOAA had allocated about $40 million for the new building, and went through a design-build request process last year. But even after scaling back on some of the design features for the project, the final bids were at least $8 million over the budget. The deadline for funding was Dec. 31, and a couple of weeks later, NOAA let the contractors know that the proposed building project would not be moving forward.

Mukilteo's federal delegation – Larsen and Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray – have been fully engaged and supportive of the research station, Gregerson said.

"I met with their (Cantwell and Murray) staff and Congressman Larsen last month, and have met with Larsen's staff several times over the last six months on this issue," she added.

Gregerson encouraged residents who support the rebuilding the research facility to contact their federal delegation and let them know their feelings.

"Contacting Congressman Larsen and our two senators would be a great action for the public to take," she said.

The federal government owns the property, and the property disposal process would take at least a year and possibly might be a multiyear process. The Federal Asset Sale and Transfer Act requires the federal government to do community outreach.

The property could be surplused to the city for parkland, but also could be sold to the highest bidder.

Gregerson also encouraged residents to let her and the City Council on what their vision is for the property, and whether the city should make it a priority to attempt to acquire it.

"It would be a big investment to purchase it," Gregerson said. "It could be a priority for our limited funds."

If the property is sold to a private owner, it would be subject to city zoning. The property is zoned waterfront mixed use, which is similar to the Fifth Street complex of buildings where John's Grill is located, and the block where Ivar's and Silver Cloud Inn are.

The research station was built as temporary Air Force barracks during World War II to support a fuel depot.

"The Mukilteo Research Station, part of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, has long supported important research on climate change effects, contaminants' impact on fish health, and much more," Milstein said. "Last year, we decided the best way to continue the research conducted at Mukilteo is to incorporate its research and researchers into existing operations in Seattle and Manchester (in Kitsap County), rather than rebuilding the facility on site."

Beacon file photo

The Mukilteo Research Station was built in the 1940s as an Air Force barracks.

Researchers at the station studied the ecological impacts of human activity, including shoreline development and stormwater runoff – all priorities for NOAA and Washington state's efforts under the Puget Sound Partnership to recover the Sound. The facility also was involved in the conservation and recovery of endangered Pacific salmon.

While the Mukilteo station was primarily a research facility, NOAA staff were active in community outreach. NOAA's Teacher in the Lab program trained high school teachers. Students in undergraduate and graduate programs gained professional training through internships. The facility also hosted youth groups, schools and local clubs.

"The Mukilteo Research Station leaves an important legacy of marine research in Puget Sound," Milstein said. "We are confident that the science that is critical to our mission of supporting fishery management and conservation will continue."


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