It was very heartening to read in Wednesday's Empire that the University of Alaska Board of Regents is placing the Point Lena project as its top funding priority. This is certainly good news for Juneau and the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.
But wait, the Lena Point site is isolated from salt water, fresh water and some five or six miles from the UAS Auke Bay campus and the "world class" NOAA Laboratory location.
I would like to draw folk's attention to the earlier letter(s) to the editor on this subject some weeks ago. The sense of that letter was that there are few, if any, scientists and friends who think the Point Lena location is viable or should be completed for this purpose. (I won't reiterate the neighborhood challenges attendant to the project.)
Almost 10 years ago I had the privilege of working for the chancellor at UAS. Much planning, design and discussion went into the Auke Lake master plan in those years. Included then were some of the very same things we see on the Regent's list today: improving the Anderson Building; pedestrian walkway across the highway for ready access and a NOAA/science building on the uphill campus side of the road. The idea was to center a variety of agencies on the campus and within close proximity to the Anderson Building (UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences) and the NOAA Laboratory.
In the intervening years the Weather Bureau built its own place, the U.S. Forest Service Laboratory relocated, while other NOAA offices went to the Hurff Saunders Federal Building and Courthouse downtown.
We remember well the opening of our "world class" NOAA Laboratory many years ago. Features included: adjoining Auke Bay for ready access to saltwater and docking purposes; close proximity to Auke Lake and the freshwater drainage out to the bay and so forth. We have been told that the present laboratory is very much in need of upgrading, as is the Anderson Building. To quote Regent Elsa Demeksa, "a critical need."
We need to band together and urge Sen. Stevens and others that the NOAA facility needs to be improved and the capitol dollars spent at the Auke Bay site. We further need to encourage the UA Board of Regents and President Mark Hamilton's administration along with UAS and Chancellor John Pugh to push for the earlier concept. It makes good sense for the university, for the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, for fisheries research in the state and for the community of Juneau.
May we kindly continue the dialogue and adjust plans before we make a "world class" mistake.
J. Allan MacKinnon