UC Regents' Committee Approves Lab Facilities Plans

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A committee for the UC Board of Regents on Tuesday passed plans for the construction of two new facilities near Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, approving both projects' environmental impact reports.

The committee approved the proposed construction of the Helios Energy Research Facility and the Computational Research and Theory Facility after listening to Berkeley residents voice concerns about their potential environmental impact.

The first facility would house the lab's Helios Project, which includes researchers working in the BP-funded Energy Biosciences Institute. The project is dedicated to developing renewable energy resources. The computational facility would be made up of computing and office space that would be available to researchers at the lab.

Construction for the Helios facility is slated to begin in July and is expected to be completed by October 2011, while

construction for the computational facility is slated to begin in January 2009 with completion expected May 2011.

Some community members expressed concern about the projects since the university released the environmental impact reports to the public as per state requirement, citing the negative impact of the facilities on pollution, traffic and the aesthetics of Strawberry Canyon on which the facilities would sit.

"Construction of these two buildings along the proposed expansion ... is a considerable concern to the city of Berkeley," said Berkeley City Councilmember Betty Olds when she addressed the committee.

Some Berkeley community members also requested that the regents look for alternative sites for the facilities.

"The (reports) for both projects do not adequately look at alternatives ... that could avoid degrading the environment," said Shirley Dean, former Berkeley mayor and a member of the community group, Save Strawberry Canyon.

However, lab officials said that the final environmental impact report revised after lab officials met with city officials addresses the concerns raised by the public.

Jeff Philliber, environmental planner at the lab, said that one of the main reasons for building the facilities near the lab is to bring researchers of different disciplines together.

"The idea there ... is having this multidisciplinary approach to science where scientists are sort of rubbing elbows in the hallways," Philliber said.


Angelica Dongallo is the news editor. Contact her at [email protected]

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