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Press Release

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey
National Wetlands Research Center
700 Cajundome Blvd.
Lafayette, LA 70506

Contact: Gabrielle Boudreaux Bodin
Phone: 337-266-8655
Fax: 337-266-8541
For Release: March 29, 2004

USGS and University of Louisiana at Lafayette to Initiate Expansion Plans for USGS National Wetlands Research Center in Research Park

Ray Authement and Tom Casadevall
Dr. Ray Authement (left), president of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and Dr. Thomas Casadevall (right), USGS central regional director

Officials from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette will sign an agreement Wednesday, March 17 at 10:30 a.m. to begin the planning and design of an expansion to the headquarters of the USGS National Wetlands Research Center, located in the university's research park. The signing will take place in the center's main conference room.

Signing will be Dr. Ray Authement, president of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and Dr. Thomas Casadevall, USGS central regional director, Denver. Representatives from the Lafayette Economic Development Authority will also attend.

Congress passed legislation last year to appropriate $1,450,000 to the university for planning and designing the new addition. The expansion is expected to add 70,000-80,000 square feet in offices, laboratories, and common space such as the library. Design will begin this spring and is expected to be completed by 2005. Construction, estimated to cost $22 million, has not yet been funded.

The expansion would provide room for an integrated science center, combining research of the university, various government agencies and all components of USGS (biology, hydrology, geography and geology) into one functioning unit to address wetland issues.

NWRC Building Expansion
Click for a larger picture

"I expect that the synergy created by co-locating our top scientists will result in programs and partnerships in a number of emerging science, information and technological areas. Much of their energy will go to addressing Louisiana's coastal land loss and restoration, recognized as one of the state's most pressing issues," said Bob Stewart, director of the center.

The USGS goal is to apply what is considered "green building" and sustainable development concepts in the design and construction process. The U.S. Green Building Council's "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design" Green Building Rating System will be used for guidance and assessment. The design will meet the Base Certified Level, at a minimum, with a goal for a Silver Certification.

The USGS National Wetlands Research Center, working closely with the university and other agencies, conducts research on wetlands and serves as a clearing house of information on wetlands. Work is primarily centered on Louisiana, the Lower Mississippi RiverValley and the Gulf Coast, but the center also has joint international projects.

The expanded integrated center will focus on a number of issues including:
· Ecological restoration, research and monitoring
· Invasive species
· Study of carbon dioxide and its relationship to the greenhouse effect
· Sea-level change and subsidence
· Hypoxia (dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico) and nutrient transport
· Disease ecology and harmful algal booms
· Development of a Gulf Coast Regional Response Center
· Energy resources
· Gulf Coast integrated databases and
· Outreach and education.

The center began its existence in 1975 as the National Coastal Ecosystems Team, part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and was housed at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. It moved to Slidell, La., in 1979 and later to the university's research park in 1992. The center became part of the U.S. Geological Survey in 1996.

Center scientists were the first group to document the extent of wetland loss in Louisiana between the 1950s and 1970s and continue monitoring this loss to this day. They also conduct research on forest ecology, wetland ecology, and spatial analysis. The center has continued to work in partnership with state and other federal agencies to investigate wetlands and to monitor their loss and restoration.

The USGS serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.

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