Business & Economy
9:05 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Federal Cuts Could Close 115 Year Old Beaufort Marine Lab

A National Center for Coastal Ocean Science researcher looks into a beaker containing lionfish eggs. Scientists agree NOAA's Beaufort lab has been the site for valuable fisheries research for more than a century. If Congress passes President Barack Obama's budget proposal, the lab will close.
Credit NOAA

If Congress passes the president's proposed 2015 budget, North Carolina's coast could lose a century-old marine lab.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's lab in Beaufort is on the chopping block.

Ciaran Clayton is a spokeswoman for NOAA.

“The current cost per year to operate and maintain the facility (is) about $1.6 million per year,” Clayton said. “It's an aging facility and would require additional funding to make those improvements, something that is just not currently in our current budget or in our future budgets.”

Clayton said the research and federal employees there would be relocated to other lab sites.

Myles Stempin directs the Carteret County Economic Development Council.

“As a whole, it would be the loss of over 108 jobs and some additional related employment positions that have been created to support NOAA's operations here, so we'd be losing that,” Stempin said.

“That all comes to a county that ranks 17th from the bottom in average annual wages. So these federal high-paying, wage-producing jobs would be a real loss to this community.”

The Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina says Beaufort is an ideal location for this research lab, which provides valuable data for the non-profit.  State Chairman Greg Hurt wrote this in an e-mail:

“Scientists at the lab have built strong partnerships with recreational and commercial fishermen, businesses, and communities along the southeast coast. It is imperative that the lab remains in Beaufort, because this location provides direct access to study the marine environment and conduct ecosystem-based research that cannot be duplicated anywhere else.”

Marine researchers from different organizations have voiced their support for the lab and asked the House Appropriations Committee to spare it.