County receives Hatfield update

At their regular meeting on March 11, the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners was updated on the progress of the building project at Hatfield Marine Science Center, pictured above. (Photo by Jeremy Burke)

NEWPORT — Bob Cowan, director, and Mark Farley, strategic initiatives manager, of Oregon State University’s (OSU) Hatfield Marine Science Center, updated Lincoln County Commissioners on March 11 regarding progress at the marine science center.

“A lot has gone on,” Cowan told the commissioners. “Starting in 2018, we started building our new marine studies building … with plans … (for) a program for academic and research expansion at the university to expand the collaboration and interaction with different disciplines.”

Cowan said that while Hatfield has a strong record in natural sciences, in fisheries work, even geological work, it was lacking strength in some of the social sciences, such as economics, social and physical anthropology, “other areas that have relevance to the marine realm that we study,” he said, which will attract more students.

With funding from a variety of different sources, including many generous donors, Cowan told the commissioners, “We’re about three months away from completing the building.”

“Where we are now is we are moving in to this building in June,” said Cowan. “The building has capacity for our Marine Genomics and Genetics Group. Marine Mammal Institute is moving in. We have three or four new faculty… their staff… and their laboratories.”

With the capacity to double the faculty, the building can accommodate 25 such laboratories, Cowan told the commissioners. He cited the potential of programs to share equipment, potentially saving millions of dollars.

The Innovation Lab will house a maker’s space, a suite of tools, made available to innovate materials and equipment, Cowan said.

“Between the science that we’re we are adding and the innovation lab, we will have a lot of further opportunities for collaboration with the community, expanding in what’s termed the blue economy, helping to add to the workforce,” he said.

There will be an expanded auditorium, added Cowan, a community-oriented facility with room for 250 to 300 people.

Recognizing that housing is an important challenge, Cowan told the commissioners, “It’s been a long haul, but we have finally gotten a commitment from the university for the first phase of building housing for about 120-plus students, depending on how tight you pack them.”

Cowan noted that the growth of the programs will be monitored to be sure that OSU provides adequate housing for the expected students, emphasizing the university’s promise not to force the community to absorb the additional students in the current housing market. Cowan added the growth is anticipated at 30 to 40 students per year.

“This summer, we’re anticipating 25 more students than we have beds for, due to the growth and popularity of the program,” Farley revealed, telling the commissioners that the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry “saved the farm” by offering bunkhouse accommodations to the students this summer at its Camp Gray in South Beach.

When asked about the location of the building in the tsunami zone, Cowan told the commissioners, “We developed a design that not only allows the building to survive a 9.0 earthquake without damage that would be structurally fatal … we also added a vertical evacuation capability. That capability will allow us to put over 900 people on the roof.”

Commission Chair Kaety Jacobson noted that there aren’t that many people anticipated to be in the building, so there would be room for additional South Beach residents to evacuate to the roof.

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