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Buildings saved in construction of research center

November 03, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

LEETOWN, W.Va. - After negotiations between state and federal agencies, three historic structures will be spared in the construction of a new $12.5 million national aquaculture center here, federal officials said Wednesday.

The National Center for Cool and Cold Water Aquaculture is slated to open in September 2000, said Director William K. Hershberger. A groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for next Tuesday has been canceled because of various dignitaries' conflicting schedules.

Construction was originally scheduled to begin last spring, but it started a month and a half ago after some delays, including efforts to save historic buildings.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the West Virginia Historic Preservation Office negotiated the preservation of three structures built about 60 years ago on the property, said John Crew, area administrative officer with the Agricultural Research Service.

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About a week ago, workers demolished one of three Sears Roebuck Co. mail-order houses built around 1939 under the Public Works Administration, according to Crew and Hershberger.

The building sat where the center is to be built, Crew said. Photographs, a floor plan and a description of the building were recorded for the state preservation office before the building was demolished, Crew said.

Two wooden frame houses and a small stone pumphouse on land next to the construction site will be spared, Crew said, adding the pumphouse may be relocated.

There is no long-term plan for using those buildings, Crew said.

"It's not so much a matter of what we're going to do as what we're not going to do," Crew said.

The state official who negotiated the preservation of the structures could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Two scientists have been hired for the aquaculture center, including Hershberger. When the center opens, there will be 30 to 40 new positions.

The aquaculture center is temporarily housed at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Training Center in Shepherdstown, W.Va., Crew said.

When complete, the center will have a 30,000-square-foot office and lab complex and a 20,000-square-foot indoor wet lab where the fish tanks will be kept, Hershberger said.

Whereas the USDA has two sister facilities in Mississippi and Arkansas that focus on warm-water fish species, the one in West Virginia will concentrate on cool- and cold-water species such as rainbow trout, hybrid striped bass and Arctic char, Hershberger said.

Scientists will try to find ways to enhance production of these fish, which are raised primarily for food, and will research diseases, he said.

Hershberger said the government studies ways to improve fish production for the same reason it got involved in agriculture - to enhance food production in the United States.

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