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UA lab at Lena Point on hold

Planners waiting to find out if lawmakers will approve funding

Posted: Friday, February 18, 2005

The University of Alaska has put on hold its plans to build a fisheries research center at Lena Point until it sees whether the state Legislature will provide more funds this session.

"Let's see what happens with the capital budget," Richard Schointuch, associate vice president for facilities, told the university board of regents Thursday at the Auke Lake campus of the University of Alaska Southeast.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks, whose School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences has a center in Juneau, has long planned to build an academic and research center at Lena Point.

Because the Legislature awarded $11.5 million, only about half what was needed, the university planned to build the center in two phases. The first phase, of about 18,500 feet, was to be designed in 2005, with construction to begin in 2006.

But inflation has eaten away at the budget, making it impossible to build all of the currently planned building, which was an "austere structure" with no lobby or common space or place for researchers to collaborate, Schointuch said.

"It's just some labs and offices," he said. "It will not serve the absolute bare minimum of program needs."

The faculty has said not to bother building it at that size, said University of Alaska President Mark Hamilton.

Meanwhile, the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences is likely to receive a grant from the Alaska-based Rasmuson Foundation that would fund two or three more professors, the university said. There are no labs or offices for those faculty members in the current plan.

If the Legislature gives the university $5 million more, it could build a 22,000-square-foot building that would accommodate the possible new faculty, Schointuch said.

But the university is asking for $10 million so it can build a 30,000-square-foot facility, with collaborative space, a lobby, classrooms and a teaching lab, he said.

The university's Lena Point facility ultimately must be tied in to the federal fisheries research lab also planned for that site, because they would share utilities.

Construction of the Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute at Lena Point is scheduled to begin in April, with completion in December of 2006, and occupancy in January 2007, the National Marine Fisheries Service has said.

The $51 million, 69,000-square-foot center will mostly replace the fisheries service's lab at Auke Bay.

• Eric Fry can be reached at eric.fry@juneauempire.com.



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