The Legislature has allocated $75 million in its budget proposal for the University of South Florida’s new Environmental and Oceanographic Sciences Research and Teaching Facility.
The funding will help the university start building the facility on its St. Petersburg campus after it announced plans for the project in January. The center will be used to address “the existential challenges created by climate change, including sea level rise, high tide flooding events and other coastal hazards.”
It will build on the university’s current College of Marine Science and bring a variety of new undergraduate and graduate programs in the fields of environment, oceanography and sustainability.
In addition to providing state-of-the-art research and instructional space for students from the colleges of Marine Science, Arts and Sciences, and Engineering, the facility will also house the Florida Flood Hub for Applied Research and Innovation — a priority championed by Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls.
The funds will be used to demolish the northwest wing of the existing Marine Science Complex at 830 First St. South in St. Pete and replace it with a new four-story addition. The remainder of the 80-year-old complex would be remodeled to accommodate research labs, teaching labs and classrooms for new programs.
“What this innovative, groundbreaking center of excellence will achieve can be summed up in a single word — impact,” Interim USF President Rhea Law said in a statement announcing the project. “It will make an enormous difference for our students, our faculty and our community, and is poised to make waves both nationally and internationally.”
The research conducted at the center will be done in ways that are accessible to policymakers, planners, elected officials and the general public, according to the university. Some of the new degrees the center hopes to offer include coastal and ocean engineering, science journalism, a master’s of business administration focused on sustainability and marine science-related businesses, and environmental chemistry.
The facility is expected to generate tens of millions in economic impact annually.
The total cost of the project is estimated at $80.3 million according to the university, with at least $20 million coming from USF, as recommended by the Florida Board of Governors.
The budget represents the consensus between the House and the Senate for the state’s financial priorities. Individual spending items are still subject to the Governor’s veto pen, however. Last year, Gov. Ron DeSantis was thought to have wielded a relatively light touch when he slashed $1.5 billion out of the $100 billion budget.