MERTS

The land where the Marine and Environmental Research and Training Center Station campus sits will soon be owned by Clatsop Community College.

The State Land Board has approved the sale of nearly 22 acres at South Tongue Point to Clatsop Community College for its Marine and Environmental Research and Training Station campus.

The college will pay the state $826,500 for land on the north side of Liberty Lane it has leased since the 1990s for welding, automotive, maritime science and other career-technical programs. The purchase is funded through the college’s plant fund meant for construction, renovation and acquisition of property.

Ali Hansen, a spokeswoman for the Department of State Lands, said the sale will likely close in the next few months.

The purchase was a requirement for the college to pursue up to $8 million in state lottery-backed bonds, matched to whatever the college can raise by 2021.

A fundraising consultant recently told the college it could only realistically hope to raise about $4 million in a capital campaign by the deadline. The college had hoped to raise $14 million to match with the state bonds and build a new maritime sciences building for its flagship program at an estimated cost of $22 million.

“I don’t think we’re planning on scaling back at all,” said Christopher Breitmeyer, the college president. “We’re looking at some other funding mechanisms and talking to various entities to see what we can do to make up for that gap.”

The college is hopeful new legislation will allow it to apply the purchase price of the property to the local match. It is also looking at the New Markets Tax Credit Program, meant for low-income communities and used to help fund previous construction at the college.

The college could also get grants from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, used by Southwest Oregon Community College to help build a health sciences building.

The State Land Board also voted to begin due diligence for a sale of more than 100 acres on the south side of Liberty Lane to the Columbia Land Trust.

The trust has secured $1.3 million in state and federal grants to purchase the land, roughly encompassing the southern two-thirds of South Tongue Point.

The land would be restored into salmon habitat with help from the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce and eventually transferred to the college for use as a living laboratory.

The lab would be used by an environmental sciences program being developed by the college, which could have classes as soon as next fall in surveying and research methods, Breitmeyer said.

“We don’t need a lot of infrastructure,” he said of the program. “Most of the courses have been taught in the past. Mostly it’s packaging those courses in a pathway, finding a four-year partner (university) for transfers.”

The college would likely create two degree tracks — one for field biologists, and another for environmental policy and law — along with certificates in forestry, fisheries, environmental remediation and other areas for people wanting to enter the workforce sooner, Breitmeyer said.

Edward Stratton is a reporter for The Daily Astorian. Contact him at 971-704-1719 or estratton@dailyastorian.com.

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