SACRAMENTO — Gov. George Deukmejian Wednesday denounced as "false rumors" published reports that California is no longer being considered as a site for the federal super collider project and insisted the state is still very much in the running.
In a pep talk to collider supporters, Deukmejian said he and other state officials are still "very strongly committed" to bringing the $4.4-billion high-energy physics research project to California.
"California is the place where the (collider) should be located," Deukmejian said.
"The superconducting super collider effort is going to help us usher in a new era of technology and global competition and I certainly want to see California leading America and the rest of the world into this exciting future," Deukmejian told about 100 business and government executives who crowded into the governor's conference room.
California is in hot competition with 25 other states to become the site of the super collider. The collider, if ultimately built, would become the world's largest atom smasher. It would be housed in a 53-mile oval-shaped tunnel built underground.
The site will be selected next year by the Department of Energy. But, before then, the department, based on recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, will whittle the list down to a small group of "best qualified" states. Those states will be selected in January.
California has proposed two sites within an hour's drive of the Capitol--one near Davis and the other close to Stockton--and pledged $560 million in financial incentives to win the contract.
But reports published this week, based on information supplied by an unnamed congressional aide, said a "best qualified" group of six states had been decided and California was not among the finalists.
Deukmejian said his staff was "assured that those are just false rumors."
To underscore the point, collider officials released statements by both the Energy Department and National Academy of Sciences saying that a decision on the best qualified states had not been made. "Reports that the list of best qualified sites for the superconducting super collider has been determined are incorrect," the Department of Energy said.
In Washington, Raphael Kasper, the official in charge of reviewing site proposals and producing a recommended list for the Department of Energy, said in a telephone interview that he has no idea what the basis of the published reports might be.
"I've tried to figure out who is saying this, or where it comes from, but I can't imagine," Kasper said. Referring to the purported list of six states--Illinois, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas and North Carolina--he said, "That list does not look like any list I've seen."
Bill Baker, a University of California vice president and one of the officials heading up the state's effort to win the collider project, said in the Capitol Wednesday: "We're confident we will be on the short list. I'd be very surprised if we weren't."
Baker also announced formation of a statewide group of business interests, Californians for the Collider, to lobby and organize support for the project.
In another development, Darrell Haynes, a land acquisition official with the Department of General Services, reported that the state is taking its first legal steps toward acquiring property for the collider, such as taking aerial photographs for mapping and filing eminent domain actions in local courts. The eminent domain actions were filed against landowners in San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Solano and Yolo counties so that state surveyors could have access to their land for environmental assessments, Haynes said.
If California is included on a final list, Haynes said, the state will begin conducting title searches and preparing appraisal reports.
Times staff writer Robert Gillette in Washington contributed to this story.