Sullivan, Ketchikan Celebrate Completion of New Pier, Return of NOAA Fairweather

KETCHIKAN, ALASKA—U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) today participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) port facility in Ketchikan to host the return of the NOAA ship Fairweather—an effort Sen. Sullivan has championed since coming to the Senate. A 2002 law authored by the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) mandated the Fairweather be homeported in Alaska—where the vessel conducts all of its research work—but it has instead resided in Oregon for more than 15 years due to the previous pier’s state of disrepair.

“Federal vessels and crew that monitor, patrol, and conduct research in Alaska’s vast waters need to reside in Alaska, period,” said Sen. Sullivan. “For more than fifteen years the NOAA Fairweather has been a frustrating exception to that commonsense expectation. But no longer! Today, after years of close coordination and work with Southeast leaders, especially Senator Stedman and Mayor Dial, we celebrate the completion of the new pier facility in beautiful Ketchikan and the long-overdue return of the Fairweather. I want to thank Dr. Spinrad, Admiral Cary, and Assistant Secretary Feliz for joining us in Ketchikan for this exciting milestone. This success is part of a larger build-up of Coast Guard and NOAA vessels and assets throughout Alaska, and a resurgence of shipbuilding and ship maintenance in Alaska’s coastal communities. I will fight to keep this historic momentum going for the economic benefit of Alaskans in our coastal communities, like Ketchikan, and to better secure America’s vital interests in our state and in the Arctic.”

Since coming to Congress, Sen. Sullivan has made it a top priority to overhaul the condemned Ketchikan facility, including raising the issue with senior White House, Department of Commerce, and NOAA officials repeatedly in meetings, letters, and at Commerce Committee hearings, and strategically leveraging the confirmation of key officials in exchange for commitments to address the challenge. 


  • Through the work of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and the Alaska congressional delegation, the Department of Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2002 directed NOAA to homeport the R/V Fairweather in Ketchikan.  
  • In 2008, the dock facility in Ketchikan was condemned, and NOAA physically relocated the Fairweather to Newport, Oregon. For more than fifteen years, the community has been working to return the vessel to its rightful homeport.
  • On January 4, 2018, Sen. Sullivan sent a letter to then-Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross requesting a detailed plan and timeline for returning the Fairweather back to its permanent homeport of Ketchikan.
  • On July 26, 2018, Secretary Ross sent a letter committing to working with Sen. Sullivan to return the Fairweather to a port in Alaska. 
  • On December 4, 2018 the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018 was signed into law, including language authored by Sen. Sullivan allowing NOAA to accept non-federal funds for the construction of a viable homeport for the Fairweather in Ketchikan.
  • On July 10, 2019, Sen. Sullivan sent a letter to Secretary Ross to again express support for docking infrastructure in Ketchikan for the NOAA Fairweather, including potential grant funding from the Economic Development Administration.
  • On August 1, 2019, Secretary Ross sent a letter to Sen. Sullivan committing to returning the Fairweather to Ketchikan once the pier is repaired and the funding necessary for shoreside facilities is secured.
  • In April 2020, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough transferred $6,493,020 in state grant funding, secured by Alaska State Sen. Bert Stedman, to NOAA in support of overhauling the Fairweather facility.
  • On December 27, 2020, President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which included language supported by Sens. Sullivan and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) directing NOAA to prioritize funding for infrastructure projects related to marine operations, including facilities to accommodate NOAA research vessels. Sen. Sullivan’s work resulted in $13 million in federal funding for the project.
  • On April 7, 2021, NOAA awarded an $18,771,041 contract to rebuild the NOAA port facility.
  • On September 4, 2021, Sen. Sullivan attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the new pier facility with local and state leaders, and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves.
  • During excavation of the site, contaminated soils were found. Disposing of the soils required NOAA to secure an additional $2 million of federal funds and set back the completion until summer 2023.

Sen. Sullivan currently serves as the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Fisheries, Climate Change and Manufacturing, which oversees NOAA, and served as chairman of the Senate Commerce Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard Subcommittee from 2017 until 2019.

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