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Remarks at University of California-San Diego NOAA-NIST Groundbreaking Ceremony, La Jolla, California

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

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Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke
Remarks at University of California-San Diego NOAA-NIST Groundbreaking Ceremony
La Jolla, California

Thank you, Dr. Haymet, for the kind words. Good morning everyone.

This is my first time on the UC-San Diego campus, and I can't believe how serene this place is.

You may have heard that the health care debate has gotten a little bit overheated recently, even among some members of Congress. I think they could use a little time out here for some R&R.

Perhaps the solution for bipartisan health care reform can be found under the palm trees here at UCSD.

Aside from being a beautiful campus, this is obviously also one of the premier research universities in the country. And I want to thank Scripps, the Regents of the University of California system, and our staff at the Commerce Department who have put a lot of time and effort into this groundbreaking.

I’m also delighted that Mayor Sanders and Cindy Tuck, from California’s Environmental Protection Agency, could join us, and that my colleague from the Commerce Department, Dr. Patrick Gallagher, deputy director of NIST, could be here as well.

It’s noteworthy that the agencies represented here—the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology—have been providing our nation with cutting-edge science for well over three centuries.

NOAA traces its history back to 1807, when Thomas Jefferson signed legislation to establish a coastal survey. NIST began as the National Bureau of Standards in 1901.

And Scripps had its beginnings in 1903 when, as the story goes, the right people, the right place and the right time all converged in San Diego. It became part of the University of California in 1912.

We’re here to mark the beginning of a new chapter.

Today, we break ground on not one, but two state-of-the-art facilities dedicated to furthering our knowledge of oceans and marine life, which contribute so much to America's economy and quality of life.

The rebuilding of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center on the bluff in back of me will provide a home for innovative marine scientific research and monitoring.

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, NOAA is providing more than $100 million to rebuild this facility. The construction will put many San Diego-area citizens back to work.

Over the next two years, this 120,000-square-foot building will be transformed into one of the most advanced marine biological laboratories in the world with more than 300 scientists.

And in the process, it will help spinoff countless businesses in the private sector. The work done here will help to grow and generate hundreds to thousands of new “blue,” jobs in the emerging fields of renewable energy, sustainable fisheries, marine bio-products and advanced ocean technologies that will literally “see” into the oceans.

It will also help advance the Obama administration's national and international ocean policy objectives, such as developing a sustainable aquaculture industry in the U.S. and more effectively tracking the migration patterns of marine animals.

Complementing this facility is the other project we’re here to inaugurate. NIST is providing $12 million to co-fund a new Marine Ecosystems, Sensing and Modeling Laboratory through the 2008 constructions grants program.

This investment also will help create and support jobs and add to our storehouse of knowledge about climate and our marine environment.

Most of the information we have today about the impact of human activities on climate change is centered on land-based effects.

But the effects of global climate change on the oceans and marine life will be just as striking. Modeling of marine ecosystems is really in its infancy. I'm told the field is at the stage that weather forecasting was three or four decades ago. And construction of this facility will help bring our understanding of the ocean into the 21st century.

The overarching research focus for the new $26 million building, co-funded by Scripps, will be the impact of climate on marine ecosystems.

Scientists will explore how climate variations affect marine populations and help answer questions like:

  • What happens to complex marine food chains when there are long-tem swings in sea surface temperatures?
  • How can we better measure the effects of greenhouse gases on ocean acidity and marine organisms?
  • And how does periodic warming of El Niño alter marine ecosystems?

These two new facilities can be a wellspring for advancing science and helping us to provide a healthy ocean legacy for generations to come. And, they are prime example of NOAA’s critical research on how a changing climate impacts our communities and our economy. I want to thank the Senate and House staffers here who have been working so hard on comprehensive climate and energy legislation. Rest assured that NOAA, with the Department of Commerce, stands ready to continue improving climate monitoring, research and services.

Thank you, and congratulations for these two wonderful new additions to the UCSD campus.