A new fisheries and ocean sciences building at Lena Point is a top funding priority for the University of Alaska in the next capital budget, its Board of Regents decided at a meeting in Fairbanks last week.
The university is seeking $18 million to build a three-floor building of about 41,500 square feet.
Part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, the building would be built next to a planned science facility of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at Lena Point.
The school facility would consolidate operations now housed in three buildings near the University of Alaska Southeast. It would provide space for 14 faculty members, research assistants and graduate students.
Regent Elsa Demeksa of Juneau, chairwoman of the regents' Finance, Facilities and Land Management Committee, said the building was seen as a "critical need." It has been planned for a decade, she said.
"We are very much aware that this is a needed facility," she said. "The fisheries are in crisis in the state of Alaska, and (the industry) is one of our biggest employers."
UAF-Juneau Center Professor Anthony Gharrett said the new building will create better research conditions and allow for better staff collaboration.
"It will give us adequate lab space ... and unite what is already a small faculty that has been fragmented," he said.
The regents' capital budget proposal will be forwarded to Gov. Tony Knowles, who will pass along his recommendations to the Legislature.
Gharrett expressed some concern that the facility - run by Fairbanks but located in Juneau - might be "orphaned" by legislators during the budget process.
"What everyone seems to lose sight of is that we're a statewide program," he said.
Gharrett said getting funding soon is important so site preparation can be coordinated with the NOAA facility, which is due to start construction in spring.
The regents also gave high priority to a UAS recreation center to be shared with the National Guard. The facility would be built with about $5.5 million in state funds and $7.5 million in federal funds. Federal funds were approved last week, UAS Chancellor John Pugh said.
Pugh said that, because of their wide-reaching impact, he hopes the recreation and Lena Point facilities will be funded.
"They're not just for the university," he said. "Both of these are things that are important for the agencies we're working with and for the broader community."
Other UAS-Juneau projects in the regents' 2003 capital budget request include:
$4.9 million to renovate the Anderson Building, now shared by UAS and the UAF fisheries center. The building would be turned over entirely to UAS science programs.
$1.5 million to renovate the Hendrickson Building and its annex. The building houses classrooms that will not be needed after an Egan Library classroom addition is completed. The space will be converted to offices.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at email@example.com.