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Campus Currents
Piscataqua River
The former Coast Guard pier and five acres in New Castle, N.H., will support UNH marine programs. Photo by George Barker.

Sittin' on a Dock of the Bay

At a ceremony in August 2000, when UNH officially acquired a Coast Guard pier and five acres of land at the mouth of the Piscataqua River, professor Hunt Howell daydreamed out loud about what the site could eventually become.

Right here, he said, there could be a building big enough to support not just a fraction of UNH's marine research programs, as the Coastal Marine Lab does now, but all of them. The pier could be repaired and used to berth visiting NOAA ships and UNH's own research boats. UNH, with dozens of well-funded and active marine research programs, would finally have an oceanfront facility to match.

As it happened, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who had helped negotiate the transfer of the Coast Guard property, was in the audience. And by spring, Howell's dream was well on its way to coming true when Gregg secured $14 million in NOAA funds for a 23,000-square foot marine research facility and a new pier. Site-development planning is slated to begin this fall, and by 2003, UNH marine researchers should be able to move into the new facility.

The new building will support a number of marine programs, including: the newly formed Cooperative Institute for New England Mariculture and Fisheries (CINEMar); the UNH Marine Program; the Cooperative Institute for Coastal, Environmental and Estuarine Technology (CICEET); the Center for Ocean and Coastal Mapping (C-COM); the Joint Hydrographic Center (JHC); and the Sea Grant Program.

The land and pier are on a coastline where "every little inch is priceless," according to Howell, director of the Center for Marine Biology. They became available when the Coast Guard's 30-year-old, 600-foot pier was found to be unsafe. The Coast Guard's cutter moved to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and the pier and associated land were declared excess property.

Initial plans for the pier are to build a 375- to 450-foot replacement for visiting ships and a floating dock for UNH vessels.

The facility should enhance UNH's ability to conduct marine research and attract new projects. As Gregg put it at CINEMar's unveiling last year, "UNH is becoming a national leader in marine research and environmental studies. Through its partnerships with NOAA, UNH is building on an already strong foundation to become a preeminent research university in environmental protection and fisheries management." ~

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