The new $51 million Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute under construction in Juneau has a peculiarity - it's right on schedule, federal officials said Thursday.
The initial roof layer is installed. Siding for the 690,000-square-foot building at Lena Point could be put up in a matter of weeks.
It took 10 years riddled with delay and controversy to finalize plans and collect funds needed to replace the National Marine Fisheries Service's 45-year-old Auke Bay Laboratory in Juneau with the new federal research center.
"After seeing so many delays and problems over the years, it's nice to see things moving as smoothly as they are," said John Gorman, the federal program manager for the project. "The only thing that's unusual is that we are on schedule. ... I think we have a good contractor."
The construction contract is being handled by Portland-based J.E. Dunn Construction. But 95 percent of the labor force at Lena Point is drawn from Juneau or Alaska residents, Gorman said.
Right now, about 40 people are working at the site but that could swell to 50 over the next few weeks as the siding installation begins, Gorman said.
Check progress on the Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute by visiting www.fakr.noaa.gov/lena and clicking on the "Webcam of construction" button. The Webcam updates the available image every few seconds.
Lab scientists and contractors with the National Marine Fisheries Service may start moving in as early as October or November 2006, Gorman said.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks also plans to relocate the Juneau campus of its School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences to Lena Point, but the project hasn't progressed beyond site preparation yet.
Full occupancy of the new federal research center - with room for about 107 workers - may occur in early 2007, said Sheela McLean, spokeswoman for the National Marine Fisheries Service's Alaska Region.
"I've never moved a whole laboratory ... . It's a good challenge," said Steve Ignell, deputy director of the Auke Bay Lab.
Ignell said discussions have only begun about the logistics of moving out of the Auke Bay Lab.
"For individual (scientists), it's going to be tough ... for some of the labs who have studies with deadlines, moving without disrupting their research will be a challenge," Ignell said.
Some Auke Bay Lab operations will remain at the old building because they can't be reproduced at Lena Point, which has no access to fresh water. The lab's estuarine studies, maintenance division, dive locker and its new specimen archives will remain in Auke Bay, Ignell said.
Roughly 20 of the lab's current 85 or so employees will remain at Auke Bay, he added.
The biggest perk of the new building is that office conditions will improve and scientists will have better laboratories to run their experiments, Ignell said.
At Auke Bay, "We've had to stick people in all sorts of nooks and crannies," Ignell said.
Elizabeth Bluemink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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