Pacific Southwest Region
California, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Construction of New, $7.2 Million Visitor Center, Headquarters Underway at San Luis National Wildlife Refuge

Jun 01, 2010

June 1, 2010
Scott Flaherty, Pacific Southwest Region 916-978-6156
Kim Forrest, Refuge Mgr., San Luis NWRC 209-826-3508

Construction of New, $7.2 Million Visitor Center, Headquarters Underway at San Luis National Wildlife Refuge

Sacramento, CA - Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced the start of construction on a new administrative headquarters and visitor center for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex (NWRC) in Merced County, California.

West Coast Contractors of Nevada, Inc., of Reno, Nevada was awarded the $7.2 million contract for the project, which is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  Work crews began clearing vegetation and preparing the project site this week.

The San Luis project is one of the largest ARRA-funded refuge construction projects in the Service. The design for the facility totals approximately 16,000 square feet, and will be located on the southwest corner of San Luis National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), about 8 miles north of Los Banos, California.  Refuge management and administrative functions will occupy approximately 11,000 square feet and include workspace for 31 people.  The visitor center will include 5,000 square feet and contain a multi-purpose room/classroom, permanent and temporary interpretive exhibit spaces, and information desk.

“The San Luis National Wildlife Refuge project is one of the major investments by the Department of the Interior in California that will provide long-term benefits to people and conserve our natural treasures,” said Secretary Salazar. “This project will create local jobs and a construct a facility that will serve as a community resource for generations to come.”

Several local construction sub-contractors will also benefit from the work.  West Coast Contractors of Nevada President Mario Ramirez said about 85 percent of project sub-contractors will be local companies from Fresno to Sacramento.  “Today, every contract means survival for construction firms and this project is going to put a lot of people to work,” Ramirez said.

The new facility will replace current refuge offices, which have been operating out of a strip mall and leased space in Los Banos for more than 30 years. Eliminating costs for leased space will save the Service $200,000 per year. The strip mall location provided no facilities for refuge visitors, which have numbered about 70,000 people annually. The Service’s Unified Design and Cost Model predicts visitation in the new facility to exceed 140,000 people annually.

“This project will benefit the local economy in Los Banos and Merced County by doubling the visitors coming to the Refuge, half of whom travel to the refuge from out of town,” said Kim Forrest, Project Leader at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex. “I hope that community residents and school students view the new facilities as a part of their own ‘back yard’ and visit often.”

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided $3 billion to the Department of the Interior.  Of that amount, $280 million went to the Service to fund job-creating investments in critical infrastructure and facilities, habitat restoration, and energy efficiency and renewable energy. 

“With its investments of Recovery Act funds, the Department of the Interior and its bureaus are putting people to work today to make improvements that will benefit the environment and the region for many years to come,” said Secretary Salazar.

For a full list of funded projects nationwide, go to the Department’s Recovery Web Site at For a list of Service projects, click on the Service’s logo at the bottom of the page. Secretary Salazar has pledged unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability in the implementation of the Department of the Interior’s economic recovery projects. The public will be able to follow the progress of each project on the recovery web site, which will include an interactive map that enables the public to track where and how the Department’s recovery dollars are being spent. In addition, the public can submit questions, comments or concerns at

 The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service.  For questions, comments or concerns email us at