Congressman John Tierney says NOAA is in the process of belatedly complying with a 2011 congressional directive to analyze the savings, if any, it would gain from closing its Northeast Regional Office in Gloucester, where more than 200 work in a nearly new $13 million facility.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's decision last year to ignore the order inserted in the agency's $5 billion budget by Sen. Barbara Mikulski sparked her amendment added to this year's pending appropriation to defund the operations in Gloucester and shift the duties to Silver Springs, Md, where the National Marine Fisheries Service is based.
Tierney told the Times that NOAA will submit its budgetary analysis of closing the Gloucester operation within "weeks."
NOAA did not respond to a series of calls and emails from the Times seeking an update on the status of the response.
Sens. John Kerry and Scott Brown, Mayor Carolyn Kirk and Tierney, who represents Cape Ann, have all denounced the idea of closing the Gloucester office, which became the epicenter of a NOAA law enforcement scandal in 2010 sparked by a series of reports from Commerce Department Inspector General Todd Zinser and a series of followup case studies by a special investigative master.
In May 2011, these reports led to a cabinet-level apology and reparations of more than $600,000 to 11 fishing industry victims of justice miscarried.
A second report by the special judicial master is on the desk of Commerce Secretary John Bryson, who has taken a leave of absence following his involvement in a bizarre set of auto accidents in the Los Angeles suburbs two weeks ago.
But even if NOAA fails to report to Congress, Kerry has signaled he will stand against any effort to eliminate the NOAA operation in Gloucester.
"Senator Kerry strongly opposes closing the Gloucester office and has urged the Appropriations Committee strike this provision in the CJS bill (the appropriations bill for commerce, justice and science)," said Kerry's spokeswoman Whitney Smith. "The senator will also oppose any effort to include this in an omnibus conference after the election."
A Mikulski spokesman said, "The committee has not received any news on the report."
We will update this story here at gloucestertimes.com as more information becomes available. To have text updates regarding this story and other local Breaking News coverage, just sign up for the Times' free text-alert service on the gloucestertimes.com homepage.
For more up-to-date coverage, follow the Times' news team on Twitter.com through @gdtnews and @gdtsports. For much more in this story, look to tomorrow's print and online editions of the Gloucester Daily Times and gloucestertimes.com.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.