WILMINGTON -- A marine-based research group in Wilmington may not be around much longer if it doesn't get the state funding it needs. Sea Grant is part of the UNC system and helps fund research projects for the University of Wilmington. The director of the program says he may have to close the local branch next year if it doesn't receive adequate funding. Rogers has worked as a hurricane researcher for sea grant for 30 years. If the state doesn't provide more funding for Sea Grant next year Rogers may be out of a job. "The state budget has been flat for the last 12 years," Rogers said. "We haven't had an increase in 12 years." Over the years the state has mandated salary increases for employees and the cost of research has gone up because of inflation. "After 12 years that's starting to get painful and it's clear to our administrators that they'll have to take some action if that doesn't change soon." The program director says the budget Sea Grant is provided each year is not enough to keep all locations open, so Sea Grant offices in Morehead City, Manteo and Wilmington might be forced to close. With the Sea Grant location in Wilmington teaming up with UNCW's marine science program for many research projects it could have a negative impact on the university's largest department. "There would certainly be less money for research and to less money to do applied marine science studies," Rogers said. The Sea Grant headquarters in Raleigh is not slated to close. The director of the program says he will not know until 2008 whether any of the three offices mentioned in the story will be forced to close or if they will have to downsize employees. The senator and house representative appointed to Sea Grant appropriations are both out of town this week and could not comment on the future of the program, or if they plan to give sea grant more money.
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