Visitors examine the marine exhibits at the Feiro Marine Life Center at Port Angeles City Pier on Sunday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Visitors examine the marine exhibits at the Feiro Marine Life Center at Port Angeles City Pier on Sunday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

NOAA pledges $3 million for new marine life center in Port Angeles

Building to replace Feiro Marine Discovery Center

PORT ANGELES — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has dedicated $3 million toward the completion of a new Marine Discovery Center, which will replace the current Feiro Marine Life Center facility on Port Angeles City Pier and NOAA’s Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Discovery Center in the Port Angeles Wharf.

The design and scale of the new building has been determined, said Melissa Williams, executive director of Feiro Marine Life Center, and the $3 million will help complete core schematic designs and site work at the center’s future location next to the Field Arts & Events Hall at Front and Oak streets.

“This money would take us essentially to being a shovel-ready project,” Williams said.

The new center will be located on the west end of the planned Port Angeles Waterfront Center, which will include Field Hall, the Marine Discovery Center and a Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe Cultural Center.

Williams said the building will be roughly 13,000 square feet and house live marine invertebrates and fish much like the current Feiro Marine Life Center does. The center is projected to cost roughly $25 million, and it will be a joint operation between NOAA and Feiro, which will administer the building.

Williams said a capital fundraising campaign began last fall, and the organization has goals of raising $10 million from individual donors and $15 million from foundations, corporations and governments.

“Our optimal goal would be to have all that money ready to go on or before 2027,” Williams said.

Eighty percent of the funding is required before the project can break ground, Williams said.

The new center will replace both the current Feiro center and NOAA’s Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Discovery Center. Both those facilities are small and aging, Williams said, and the new center will allow for increased collaboration between the two organizations.

The funding is part of a $3.3 billion investment by NOAA thanks to appropriations in the Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress in 2022.

NOAA will keep its office in the wharf building, according to Kevin Grant, superintendent of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, but the discovery center will move its operations to the new building.

Williams said the center will employ 10-12 full-time staff members — up from Feiro’s current four employees — as well as part-time and seasonal employees.

The building which currently houses the Feiro Marine Life Center is owned by the City of Port Angeles, Williams said, and its future is currently unknown.

Additional information about the discovery center can be found at marinediscoverycenter.info.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at peter.segall@peninsuladailynews.com.

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