Jun 27 2007

USA may get $30M

Mobile Press-Register

By Sean Reilly

The University of South Alabama would receive $30 million toward construction of a new engineering and science center under a spending bill approved Tuesday by a Senate appropriations subcommittee, according to U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa.

"The expanding science and technology-based industry in Mobile will only demand more university skilled workers for high-paying jobs in the future," Shelby said in a news release. "The new center will allow USA to prepare students for that work force."

Announced several years ago, the proposed center carries a

$50 million price tag and is one is a series that Shelby has helped put on the state's campuses.

If approved by the full Congress -- and the outcome probably won't be known until this fall -- the money would be added to a previously approved $10 million installment to bring the federal government's share to $40 million.

The university has agreed to come up with the remaining

$10 million.

"We have several options," USA lobbyist Happy Fulford said Tuesday. The state could provide the money through different mechanisms, he said, while the school could also turn to private sources.

"Now that it looks like the

$40 million may come to fruition this (appropriations) cycle, we'll be pretty aggressive about identifying the match," Fulford said.

The proposed funding is contained in a bill that would cover expenses for the U.S. Commerce Department, NASA and other agencies for the 2008 fiscal year that begins in October.

The bill still needs approval by the full Appropriations Committee and the full Senate. Eventually, it will also have to be reconciled with a House counterpart. That measure has not yet been made public, and it's unclear whether it contains any funding for the USA project.

Under the Senate bill, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration would receive $6 million for a first-of-a-kind disaster response center.

When he first sought funding for that project last year, Shelby envisioned the proposed center as part of a long-planned maritime museum on the Mobile waterfront.

But federal policy strongly discourages construction of government buildings in flood zones. While Shelby said he believes the proposed center should be in Mobile, the actual location is now up to NOAA, a spokeswoman for the senator said via e-mail.

Other projects in south Alabama included in the bill are:

$3 million for the Center for Ecosystem-based Fisheries Management at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

$1.25 million to USA for Oyster Bed Reseeding and Fishery Habitat Enhancement. The university would also receive $750,000 for hurricane monitoring and prediction, along with $300,000 for monitoring "catastrophic" weather events.

$500,000 for educational activities and exhibits at the maritime museum, formally known as the National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico.

$100,000 for the City of Orange Beach Fishing Mortality Education Program.