NORFOLK, Va. — There are currently about 60 shore-side personnel working at the Marine Operations Center for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Norfolk, but not for much longer.
Recently, NOAA said the center is no longer feasible to maintain and will be moving from along Brambleton Avenue to Naval Station Newport in Rhode Island.
The eventual move up the east coast is a decision that some state leaders, like Sen. Mark Warner, said he wouldn't have made.
"I'm concerned about this potential move of some of the NOAA personnel to Rhode Island," Sen. Warner (D) said. "Sen. Kaine and I have weighed in to come to see if we can reverse that."
But NOAA said the decision is final.
The Marine Operations Center, which is one of several offices belonging to NOAA in the city was determined to no longer be operationally or economically feasible to keep running.
After hearing the news, Sen. Warner said he wanted to set the record straight for how NOAA would continue to work with the region.
While the number of employees relocating isn't known just yet, NOAA added this consolidation isn't going to reduce the number of ship operations in Norfolk and the Chesapeake Bay area. Instead, it's going to mean more efficient ship operation and long-term cost savings through sharing common capabilities.
In terms of what's going to happen to the building, the city said there's no concrete plan. In a statement, the city said "current alignment for flood protection measures as part of the city's proposed downtown protection project may utilize the properties.
In addition to the safety and security provided by NOAA personnel. some employees also played a role in history over the last 30 years after Trans World Airlines Flight 800 exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 1996. NOAA's hydrographic survey vessel, known as Rude, was used to find the wreckage.
The same vessel helped located fragments of JFK Jr.'s plane crashing using side-scan sonar.
"NOAA is one of those incredibly important agencies that most Americans don't probably realize how important it is," Sen. Warner said. "I'd rather these jobs have stayed in the community, but the one thing I can promise is we're not going to let the very important work that NOAA does for Hampton Roads, for the Mid-Atlantic, disappear in any way.
NOAA officials said they are closely working with the U.S. Navy to finalize the plans to move the facility, and currently, there's no timeline.