Repairs to Marine Science Institute nearly finished

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Hurricane Harvey tore a roof clean off of a building at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute. Now, that building, along with several others, is nearly fully functional again. 

“It doesn’t feel like a construction zone anymore,” MSI communications coordinator Sally Palmer said. “It looks light-years better.” 

University spokesperson J.B. Bird said construction on the main administration building and labs is nearly finished and should be done by May. The total reconstruction cost is about $59.2 million, with funds coming from University insurance, FEMA, grants and private donations. 

“We’ve had about three football fields worth of roofing that’s been replaced,” Bird said. “The restoration of the remaining buildings is about 90 percent complete.” 

The storm damaged all 74 buildings on campus, but most of the reconstruction plans are in progress, with 80 percent of repairs complete, Palmer said. 

“There’s a lot of front-loaded time in writing up new engineering plans,” Palmer said. “Most of the (pre-construction) has been finished, so that’s why I feel like we’re so far along.”  Some of the final steps include reconstructing the research pier that goes out into the Gulf of Mexico and some other facilities, which should be completed by summer 2020, Palmer said. 

 

Sarah Douglas, marine science graduate student, said after the storm destroyed MSI lab spaces and equipment, students were able to use labs at Texas A&M-Corpus Chrsti. Since MSI student housing was destroyed, Douglas and a few other graduate students temporarily lived in an apartment on North Padre Island — over 20 miles from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and 30 miles from the MSI. 

“We set up on North Padre Island, and then we would commute to Corpus Christi,” Douglas said. “After a few months … we were able to kind of move back to the MSI, but it was definitely three or four months kind of commuting between those two places before we were finally able to come back.” 

Douglas moved back into her renovated student housing in March, but her research is still on hold. 

“I feel like I’m still interrupted, honestly,” Douglas said. “The kind of work I do is chemistry, so we require a lot of big instruments, and they were all considered damaged by the storm … The new ones are sitting in boxes, but since we don’t have our final lab to set them up in, we’ve been waiting to set them up.”

Douglas said she hopes instruments will be set up next month when the permanent lab spaces are scheduled to be finished. 

As devastating as the hurricane was, it allowed the MSI to rebuild stronger and more prepared for severe storms, Palmer said. 

“Any time we’ve gone back in to redo something that was damaged, we always ask ourselves, ‘Are we putting it back with something that’s resilient to the next storm?’” Palmer said. “If and when the next storm hits, we will be a lot stronger and our damages will be that much less.”