RICHMOND -- Federal budget cuts are throwing a wrench into Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's plan for a new biosciences campus in Richmond, possibly delaying construction for a year or longer.
The Berkeley lab had counted on Department of Energy funding to start building a $130 million facility -- the first of several -- next year. But automatic funding cuts known as sequestration are likely to block federal funding for large new construction projects like this one for the coming fiscal year.
Although the final federal budget has yet to be approved, the Richmond project didn't even make it into the president's budget proposal, which is generally considered the starting point for negotiations.
"In conversations with lawmakers, we get very strong support for science," said Horst Simon, the lab's deputy director. "The reality is, science is getting cut like everything else."
Despite this setback, the Lawrence Berkeley Lab is moving ahead to develop the property around the UC-owned Richmond Field Station, seeking the approvals needed for the project's first phase, Simon said.
Headquartered in the Berkeley hills, the lab is leasing space in other cities for its growing biosciences program. A second campus in Richmond, along the bay, would eventually house some 800 employees scattered throughout the East Bay.
Oakland, Alameda, Albany and other areas competed for the new development in 2011. After the lab settled on Richmond for its expansion, UC Berkeley -- which manages the field station for the UC system -- joined the development project as a partner. It, too, is looking for funding to build science facilities there, Simon said.
The partnership is mutually beneficial, as UC Berkeley has long worked closely with the Berkeley lab, Simon said. Many of the lab's scientists have joint teaching appointments at Cal.
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