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The cosmic research lab that was proposed to be built underneath a Cascade Mountain has received a new lease on life. The Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL) will receive a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for further studies and design. NSF had dropped the Cascades site from consideration last October, but the University of Washington appealed and is now back in the race. Vertical shaft sites in South Dakota and Colorado are also being studied.

New Site Proposed

The previous proposal to tunnel under Cashmere Mountain (and Alpine Lakes Wilderness) in the Icicle Creek valley, was highly controversial. That site has been shelved, and a revised proposal would use an existing tunnel about 60 feet south of the currently operating Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tunnel under Stevens Pass. Known as the “pioneer tunnel,” it was dug to facilitate the excavation of the railroad tunnel in 1929. It is not the older Cascade Tunnel, which is farther north. The pioneer tunnel runs under the Stevens Pass ski area. The lab would use about half of the 5.3-mile tunnel, to get to a spot that is 3,400 feet deep in the granite rock – underneath Cowboy Mtn. The tunnel portal is at the railroad yard at Scenic. Excavated rock would be shipped out over the rails.

The proposal has also been scaled back and would be accomplished in phases, with a deeper tunnel to be dug under the existing tunnel in the future.

For more information: http://www.int.washington.edu/DUSEL/cascades.html

Late News: June 26, 2006– National Science Foundation reversed itself again and rescinded the grant, but will allow the UW to submit a second stage proposal with its own funds. UW has not decided whether to pursue the project.