Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Berkeley Successfully Blocks LBNL/NERSC Building

The University of California will have to shelve plans for a $113 million computer research center in the hills above the Berkeley campus until a federal agency studies possible damage to Strawberry Canyon, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup of San Francisco issued an injunction in March prohibiting construction of the center, the possible new home of U.S. Department of Energy supercomputers, until he rules on whether a new environmental study is needed.

On Monday, Alsup said the project would be funded and controlled by the federal government and therefore is covered by federal law, which requires a government study of potential environmental harm before construction.

Although the federal government has not committed to paying for the computer center, Alsup said UC expects it to do so. He also said the Energy Department paid the salaries of employees at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory - including its then-director, Steven Chu, now the U.S. energy secretary - who influenced the project's scope and budget.

Both UC and the federal agency had argued that the center, which the university would own, would be a state project. The university conducted an environmental study under California law last year and decided that constructing the building would not harm the hillside, a conclusion that opponents questioned.

Construction had been scheduled to start in March. The judge has quoted project officials as saying a further environmental report would cause a year's delay.

The proposed Computational Research and Theory Facility, a joint project of the university and the UC-operated Lawrence Berkeley laboratory, is to be built on lab property near Strawberry Canyon.

The 126,000-square-foot building would house high-performance Energy Department computers now located in a leased building in Oakland that is running out of space. It would be used by researchers and students from both the university and Lawrence Berkeley.

A group called Save Strawberry Canyon sued in July 2008, saying construction in a steep area prone to fires and virtually atop the Hayward Fault was risky. The group said the university could move at least some of the computer equipment to industrially zoned land it owns in Richmond.


Sad part is that we picked a spot with no native trees and whatnot. In fact, it's only Eucalyptus, iirc. We even had it designed so it'll be largely blocked from view by trees growing.

So, for sure, this will end up being not ready for our next major system. Which is an issue for a LOT of reasons, not just space, but also power and cooling for us. The really, really sad part is that it'd save a lot of power in general with the reworked set up that they have planned. oh well.

NIMBYim rules again.

I am not fond of Berkeley, local nutjob Berkeley, at all. There are actually a lot of nice people there, but there seems to be a strange attractor for those that are twits there too.

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