This story was updated on Sept. 29 to correct errors in describing the relative locations of the current and future facilities.

 

EAST BOOTHBAY — The trees have started to come down and a building lot is beginning to take shape at the site of what will become the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences’s new 64-acre campus.

On Tuesday morning, more than 200 people gathered to celebrate the beginning of construction. They walked up a dirt road that 24 hours earlier was a river of mud, sat on benches fashioned out of cleared trees and listened to the proceedings.

“This is the first step in ensuring that world-class, leading-edge ocean research will be part of Maine’s innovation economy,” said Graham Shimmield, the lab’s executive director.

Founded in 1974, Bigelow Laboratory is currently housed in rented space from the Department of Marine Resources in western Boothbay Harbor. It recently purchased a 60-acre forested waterfront parcel in East Boothbay for a $50 million campus that will take shape in the next few years.

Shimmield said the laboratory, in the next few years, is expected to grow from a $13 million operation with 106 direct and indirect jobs to a $28 million facility with 200 jobs.

The Lincoln County Economic Development Office projected the Bigelow Center for Blue Technology will attract $34 million in new money to the state in the next five years due to new patents, product development and spin-off businesses.

The first phase of construction, due to be complete in November 2011, is the $10 million Bigelow Center for Blue Biotechnology. The 25,600-square-foot, three-story building will house the Bigelow’s Center for the Collection of Marine Phytoplankton, various laboratories, offices, a cafe and conference space.

The building is designed to be energy efficient, including zinc and wood exterior surfaces, low water-flow fixtures and natural landscaping.

The land was bought with about $2 million in private donations and a $1.46 million grant from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. A $4.45 million award from the Maine Technology Asset Fund will cover the first phase of the campus construction.

“This is an incredibly important step,” said Betsy Biemann, president of the Maine Technology Institute, which awards the technology asset funds.

Sen. Susan Collins announced that the Senate Appropriations committee had approved $300,000 for the Center for the Collection of Marine Phytoplankton, which houses the largest collection in the world with more than 2,600 strains of algae.

“Bigelow Laboratory is building strong partnerships,” Collins said.

When complete, the campus will include an attached building for the Center for Ocean Biogeochemistry and Climate Change, a building for the Center for Ocean Health, housing for visiting scientists and other facilities. There will be a dock where research vessels can tie up.

The amenities also will include walking paths maintained by the Boothbay Region Land Trust.

The East Boothbay Planning Board unanimously approved the campus plan in June. Neighbors at the ceremony said they do not expect the new facility to impact the area much. The entrance road will be on Route 96.

“It is so much better than a housing development,” said Nell Tharpe.

 

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at: [email protected]