Wednesday, May 21, 2008

CIRM Lab Grants: UC Santa Cruz on Hold

The California stem cell agency's sweeping, $1.1 billion stem cell lab construction program appears to have hit what we call here in Mexico a "tope."

The Silicon Valley Business Journal is reporting that lab plans at UC Santa Cruz have run smack into that perennial California issue – water. The proposal to build a stem cell research facility on the campus is now on indefinite hold.

Just two weeks ago, CIRM directors approved a $7.2 million grant to help with the center. However, the Business Journal piece by Lisa Sibley said the project cannot proceed until the university resolves its water fight with the Santa Cruz City and County. At issue is where the campus will find the additional water for its future growth.

All of which could amount to a significant "tope," as the bone-jarring speed bumps in Mexico are known.

Campus officials are minimizing the impact, however. In response to a question from the California Stem Cell Report, campus spokesman Tim Stephens said,
"While the EIR (environmental impact report) for the biomedical facility was challenged in court, all parties have been participating in mediation talks to settle the litigation. We are very optimistic about the outcome of these talks and expect that construction of the biomedical building, which will house the stem cell center, could begin early in 2009."
CIRM is requiring lab grant recipients to complete their projects in two years(2010), an admirable goal but one that may be difficult in a state that is famous for lawsuit-happy environmentalists, slow-working government bureaucracies that must issue permits and approve plans and activist community groups, such as the glider enthusiasts that are balking at stem cell lab plans in the San Diego area.

For readers not familiar with California, water is an enormous issue in the state, which is basically a desert, especially in the most populated areas. In many cases, water must be piped in hundreds of miles to meet the needs of industry and agriculture, which are by far the largest users of water. Households come in a distant third.

As Mark Twain once remarked, "Whiskey is for drinking. Water is for fighting over."

(Editor's note: Re tope(pronounced tow-pay): For those of you who do not read all the details of how this website is produced, it is written and reported principally from a sailboat on the west coast of Mexico.)

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