NOAA and Newport

Newport is home to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Operations Center-Pacific (MOC-P)

As a national agency dedicated to science, research and their practical applications to everyday life, NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts, and to share that information with others. The agency is also tasked with conserving and managing coastal and marine ecosystems and resources, and helping to protect mariners and the public from the forces of nature. NOAA is the nation’s primary source of weather data, forecasts and predictions.

Although NOAA has only existed as a national agency since 1970, the agencies that were combined to form NOAA are among the oldest in the federal government. Thomas Jefferson created the Survey of the Coast in 1807 to chart the nation’s coastal waters to ensure that ships could safely transport civilians, troops, and materials. In 1917, an act of Congress made the Survey (at that time, named the Coast and Geodetic Survey) a commissioned service, for defense purposes during World War I. The Coast and Geodetic Survey was again instrumental during World War II in producing nautical and aeronautical charts, providing critical geospatial information to artillery units, and conducting reconnaissance surveys. 

In addition to the Coast and Geodetic Survey, the U. S. Weather Bureau was another agency that was merged to create NOAA in 1970. The U.S Weather Bureau was established in 1870 to provide weather observations and warnings for the U.S. Army, and was transferred to the Department of Agriculture in 1890. The U.S. Weather Bureau became the National Weather Service and a part of NOAA in 1970. The U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries was the final agency to become a part of NOAA. Formed in 1871, the Commission of Fish and Fisheries was charged with protecting commercial fish and studying marine mammals. In 1882, their vessel, the USS Albatross became the first scientific ship built for fisheries and oceanographic research. For 30 years, Albatross discovered many new marine species and became the model for NOAA’s modern marine research.

Since 2011, the NOAA Marine Operations Center-Pacific has been headquartered in Newport’s South Beach, providing administrative and logistical support for the five ships in NOAA’s Pacific fleet, two of which, the Bell M. Shimada and Rainier are homeported at the facility. The other vessels, Oscar Dyson, Reuben Lasker, and Fairweather are homeported in California and Alaska, but often dock in Newport as part of scientific and research missions. The facility is leased from the Port of Newport, and includes 40,852 square feet of office and warehouse space, and a 1,300-foot-long wharf and small port dock. The 20 year lease is effective until 2031, when the agency will have the opportunity to renew it.

The center in Newport and all five ships are part of the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, based in Silver Springs, Maryland. The ships in NOAA’s Pacific fleet are tasked with collecting essential data used to protect coral reefs and historic shipwrecks, manage commercial fish stocks, understand climate processes, and produce nautical charts that help keep mariners safe. The ships also deploy and help maintain buoys that gather oceanographic and weather information and warn of tsunamis.

NOAA scientists also conduct research from Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC), which is located just across the street from the MOC-P facility in South Beach. The HMSC’s Newport Research Station is the only port research facility for NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center. Scientists and staff at the HMSC work aboard NOAA vessels to conduct scientific research throughout the Pacific coast region.

For the past six years, NOAA has become an integral part of the Newport community. The agency provides over 100 living-wage jobs to the area (over 200 jobs when the other research vessels are in port), as well as educational presentations, classes and exhibits through the HMSC. NOAA’s majestic research vessels are easy to spot across the Yaquina Bay from the Historic Bayfront, and are often seen leaving the bay or returning to port from research missions.

NOAA Website