Members of the Massachusetts Seaport Economic Council (SEC) gave the green-light to a $1 million grant proposal from the Town of Falmouth and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). The SEC, chaired by Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, promotes economic growth in the maritime sector through competitive grants to municipalities and their partners.

The grant will support the next phase of planning to develop a state-of-the-art Complex for Waterfront Access To Exploration and Research (CWATER): a next-generation, world-class, sustainable waterfront marine research complex in Woods Hole, MA.

This is the second grant that WHOI and Falmouth have received for the project. In 2017, the council approved a $500,000 grant request to do a feasibility study for the replacement of the WHOI dock on Water Street in Woods Hole—the future site of CWATER.

“The WHOI dock is nearing the end of its engineering and economic life and needs to be replaced,” said WHOI Vice President for Marine Operations Rob Munier, who presented the grant proposal along with Falmouth Town Manager Julian Suso. “The first grant allowed us to develop a roadmap to help guide us through this project, which is a complicated undertaking. We were able to conduct a series of trade studies to consider the wide range of possibilities, and whittle those options down to a manageable few.”

Munier said one of the key outcomes identified from the feasibility study was the importance of anticipating sea level rise. Designing a mission-critical waterfront complex that will be sustainable for the next 50 years or longer requires new thinking to manage uncertainty.

“One of the things we will do next is take a deeper dive into the sea level question, so that we have a better understanding, and use that understanding to inform the rest of the project,” he added. “What we learn during the sea rise analysis will be important and impactful for the town of Falmouth too. We want to take what we learn and share it with our community, so that we can all plan together.”

The new grant will also fund a dock and building adaptability assessment, site investigations, preliminary designs, and permitting consultation and application, which Munier expects to wrap up in June of 2020.

WHOI established a community advisory committee for the project comprised of representatives from neighboring research and oceanographic organizations—NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Marine Biological Laboratory,— as well as the Woods Hole Business and Community Associations to get input and also to keep the community up-to-date as the project progresses.

"It's a great project and going to be something the entire community will benefit from," Munier said.

Falmouth is a maritime community and home to a number of marine research centers, the largest of which is WHOI. Established in 1930, WHOI’s Woods Hole waterfront facilities are a key asset for the Institution, the community, the state and the nation generating over $30 million per year in economic activity.

“We are pleased that the Seaport Economic Council has again recognized the value of the partnership between the Town of Falmouth and WHOI with the award of this grant,” said Falmouth Town Manager Julian Suso. “The CWATER project will ensure that Woods Hole remains a center of excellence for marine research, benefiting the community and the nation for decades to come.”

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