Sault Ste. Marie – The first tenant for a proposed research park on Sault Ste. Marie’s waterfront is set to start building next summer.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is committing $7 million to establish a fisheries research centre at the site. It’s part of a larger community effort to eventually create an alien invasive species centre and forestry research park.
Minister of State Andy Mitchell made the Nov. 24 announcement on behalf of Geoff Regan, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
Errol Caldwell, executive director of Science Enterprise Algoma, the research park’s driver, says the new centre represents the aquatic side of establishing a bio-economic development cluster.
The stand-alone facility will be situated on Queen Street East between the two well-known government forestry and bug labs, the Ontario Forest Research Institute (OFRI) - operated by the Ministry of Natural Resources - and National Resources Canada’s (NRCan) Great Lakes Forestry Centre.
The facility will house a new Sea Lamprey Control Centre and will corral all the federal fisheries programs together under one roof.
It will include a satellite office for the Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, and a district office for the Fish Habitat Management program.
No specific date was given for next summer’s groundbreaking, but the facility is to be completed by 2008.
“We’re pretty excited,” says Dr. Robert Young, division manager of the Sault-based Sea Lamprey Control Centre.
“The idea of being located at the same place as NRCan is really exciting for our program.
“We’re both in the integrated pest management business and we feel we’re going to get some synergy there. We’ll be able to pass our experience to them and them to us, and hopefully we’ll be able to do better research and have a better control program.”
No decision has been made if any new fisheries jobs will be created beyond the lamprey centre’s existing 37 full-time employees.
The sea lamprey program is conducted under the auspices of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, an international program managed by DFO and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The headquarters has been located near the Parks Canada canal site since its establishment in 1965. Warehousing has been added over time, but Young says office and lab space remains limited.
“We have a wish list of what we want in the wet and dry lab, and storage facilities.”
The size and scope of the office portion of the building is set against Public Works standards.
Although Mitchell’s funding announcement was made one week before a federal election call, Caldwell says DFO has had plans in the works for some time to expand the lamprey centre.
Last spring’s federal budget allocated $85 million over five years to develop a national strategy for fighting invasive alien species such as the Asian Long-horned Beetle and the Gypsy Moth. About $10 million of that was set aside for the Great Lakes Sea Lamprey Control Program.
The project plans were finalized earlier this year by Public Works and Government Services Canada, which awarded the design tender to MGP Architects/Engineering of Sault Ste. Marie.
Caldwell says he did some of the matchmaking between DFO and Natural Resources Canada that led to the relocating of the centre to NRCan property to better integrate operations.
The Canadian Forestry Service and provincial Ministry of Natural Resources already conduct some invasive species work from a forestry perspective. “It was pretty much a no-brainer,” says Caldwell.
He says plans to fully develop the forestry-related invasive species side of the research park are coming ahead. With a business feasibility study in hand, his group’s next step is to develop a full charter with a detailed operating plan.