NOAA site on Ford Island deemed safe from tsunamis
The new center will house the agency's research headquarters
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will break ground Monday on Ford Island for the agency's new $250 million Honolulu office and research headquarters.
NOAA released a scientific study yesterday that affirmed there is low risk of a tsunami inundating its chosen site for a 400,000-square-foot building that will house up to 500 agency and contract employees.
The NOAA Center for Tsunami Research study projected that even in "worst-case" scenarios of 9.3-magnitude earthquakes, its site in the middle of Pearl Harbor, at 10 feet above mean sea level, would remain dry, a NOAA release said.
The study's results were announced about two months after Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a national advocacy group, criticized the Ford Island plan, saying it would put the warning center at greater risk of being hit by a giant wave.
Workers at the National Weather Service forecast office on the University of Hawaii-Manoa campus will not move into the new building, said spokeswoman Delores Clark. The weather service will remain at UH to be near the university meteorology department, she said.
Other NOAA divisions that will move into the new facility include the Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center, regional National Weather Service officials and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, now in Ewa Beach.
The science center conducts research that aids fisheries management and protection of endangered marine species. Ninety people work at a 56-year-old building on the UH campus that is riddled with termites and leaks. An additional 40 work in trailers at Kewalo Basin.
Three NOAA research ships -- the Kaimimoana, Oscar Elton Sette and Hi'ialakai -- will move to Ford Island in the spring, where a ship operations center already was built to support them, Clark said. The ships have been docked at Snug Harbor.
An environmental impact statement on the project will be released next week by the Pacific Division of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, which is managing the building construction project for NOAA, Clark said.
Hawaii NOAA employees, Hawaii's congressional delegation, NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher and Rear Adm. Townsend Alexander, Navy commander for Hawaii and the Middle Pacific, will be among the celebrants at a ceremony at the site Monday.
Design drawings of the new three-story building, which will incorporate two historic airplane hangars, will be unveiled, Clark said. Construction should begin later this year.
NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.