BERKELEY — State officials went to court Tuesday to force 30 Central Valley landowners to let scientists on their property for environmental survey work needed to prepare California's bid for the proposed superconducting super collider.
Deputy Atty. Gen. Michael Gates filed documents in the Superior Courts of five counties--San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Calaveras, Yolo and Solano--seeking dates on which the state could petition for court orders forcing reluctant property owners to open their farms to state workers.
At the same time, the attorney general's office mailed letters to the 34 landowners asking them to voluntarily sign "temporary entry permits," which university officials said would let them avoid the court hearing and be paid for cooperating.
Purpose of Study
Archeologists and biologists already have walked over about 250 of the 311 parcels being considered for the collider. The surveys consist of looking for arrowheads and other cultural artifacts, and taking inventory of wildlife and plants. Only hand tools are used.
Officials at the University of California, which is handling the state's bid for the huge $4.4-billion federal science project, said 22 of the 192 affected landowners near Stockton and eight of the 119 near Davis have flatly refused access to workers involved with the collider.
The remainder have voluntarily cooperated with the state.
"The effort to survey these (remaining) properties is not only required by law, but best serves the public interest," explained Darrell Haynes, a deputy director of the state Department of General Services. "Only with complete information in hand can we make a full assessment of the SSC's potential environmental impacts."
Some residents have demonstrated against the collider, contending that it would take out of production some of California's most productive agricultural land. They also complain that the state bid for the project without preparing a full environmental and fiscal review. Groups near both nominated sites have filed lawsuits challenging the process.
California has nominated two sites for the massive machine. One is east of Stockton, while the other circles the city of Davis, west of Sacramento. About 25 states have bid for the collider. Next month, the "best qualified" nominees from around the country will be announced by the National Academy of Sciences. Federal officials are scheduled to choose a preferred site in July.
At the same time it went to court Tuesday, the university issued a public opinion poll asserting that two-thirds of Northern Californians familiar with the project support efforts to attract the collider and the thousands of jobs, millions of dollars in new business and worldwide prestige it promises.
The poll, by Sievers Research Co. of South Pasadena, consisted of a random telephone survey of 600 Northern Californians between Oct. 27 and Nov. 14. It surveyed 200 people in each of three metropolitan counties--San Francisco, Sacramento and San Joaquin.
The questionnaire was commissioned by the California Collider Commission, a gubernatorial board that is formally submitting the state's bid.
Of the people polled, 55% said they knew "a lot" or "something" of the collider, a 53-mile-long, oval-shaped underground atom smasher. Of those, 30% "definitely approve" of the project and another 38% "probably approve" of it, the survey found. Another 17% said they either "probably disapprove" or "definitely disapprove" of the project.
The most knowledgeable respondents were in Sacramento, where 68% said they knew what the project is about; the most enthusiastic support was in San Joaquin, where 73% of those who knew of the collider approved of it.