The awarding of a contract to build two new NOAA research ships should pique Ketchikan’s interest.

The U.S. Navy let the contract in the amount of $178 million to a Louisiana shipyard. While it would be economically exciting for building to take place in the First City, that isn’t happening this time. Maybe another.

But, once the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ships are built, Ketchikan and Alaska should be considered for homeporting. One of the ships, the Oceanographer, will be home-ported in Honolulu.

No homeport has been  announced for the other ship, the Discoverer.

The NOAA facility at 1010 Stedman St. is being renovated to accommodate NOAA’s Fairweather. Ketchikan is its homeport, although it has been in Seattle without a proper pier available here.

The contract for a federal environmental assessment of the Stedman Street location has been awarded. The existing pier is being demolished, readying the location for new construction.

Sen. Bert Stedman worked to acquire about $7 million in state funding for the project. Sen. Dan Sullivan labored to change federal law to allow state funding to be transferred to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough and on to a federal project.

With the way cleared for the first phase, state and federal leaders will be discussing the second.

Sullivan noted when he visited the Stedman Street location last year that the site has the potential for more than the Fair-weather and its 48-member crew.

He suggested that another NOAA vessel might be a possibility.

The idea of a second vessel and future expansion should be considered as the local NOAA facility’s second phase is discussed.

Here’s an opportunity for Ketchikan. The time is now to pursue it.