A partnership of local education organizations is developing a new marine research campus in Houma.
This new campus, on Dickson Road, the result of a partnership among Fletcher Community College, the South Louisiana Community College and the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, or LUMCON, based in Cocodrie.
LUMCON’s goal is to increase society’s awareness of the environmental, economic and cultural value of Louisiana’s coastal and marine environments through research and education programs. LUMCON Executive Director Craig McClain said the campus is available for all who want to collaborate with others.
“The idea of the campus is collaborative,” said McClain. “There will be a lot of focus on work-force development and retraining. There will be a lot on learning technology and innovation. It’s a big, collaborative space. We’re looking for partners among many agencies to come put representation on this campus in Houma.”
The Houma Main Campus will permit LUMCON to stimulate, coordinate and facilitate scientific research among marine science programs. McClain said he hopes to begin construction sometime in 2019.
“We are confident that any research vessels requiring fuel and maintenance as they sail along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and in the Gulf of Mexico would find not only the skill sets needed locally, but hospitality, as is deeply rooted in our Southern Louisiana culture,” said Terrebonne Economic Development Authority CEO Matthew Rookard.
The current vessels maintenance building and machine shop at the Cocodrie facility are at ground level, making them vulnerable to flooding. It also lacks space for moving and maintaining the scientific equipment.
The new site will also offer a sheltered base of operations and retreat from flooding. LUMCON’s Cocodrie facility is outside the Morganza-to-the-Gulf Levee System. The facility was closed for several days due to flooding from Tropical Storm Cindy, Hurricane Harvey and other storms. The Houma campus and dock would allow for continued operations during storms.
In total, the new facility would save LUMCON $8 million in productivity over the next 20 years by avoiding operational shut down due to high water, McClain said.
“We continue to have meetings to build a campus plan,” McClain said. “We’re really excited about this campus because it will bring a lot of new entities to the region and the state, as well as make a significant impact on the unemployment in the region.”
An economic impact analysis for the campus conducted by LSU estimated the new campus would lead to over $125 million in earnings and more than $470 million in economic output over the next 20 years.
Construction and operations of the campus would generate 337 new jobs, at construction’s peak, and the facility will employ 70 workers upon completion. The construction will cost an estimated $58.8 million dollars.
“There’s a process where this has to be approved by the Legislature, and then the money is secured for the budget. We’re waiting on finalization of that before we begin the process,” said McClain.
-- Staff Writer Scott McLendon can be reached at 857-2204 or firstname.lastname@example.org.