AP Photo/Jeff ChiuTwo men fish in the water in front of a barge on Treasure Island in San Francisco

Google says mysterious barges will be interactive learning sites

Internet giant Google says it is exploring using two large barges, one on San Francisco Bay and the other on the East Coast, as interactive learning centers.

A statement released Wednesday from Google’s press center helped end weeks of speculation about the purpose of structures on two barges, one being built near Treasure Island and the other now floating off Portland, Maine.

“Google Barge … A floating data center? A wild party boat? A barge housing the last remaining dinosaur? Sadly, none of the above,” said the statement. “Although it’s still early days and things may change, we’re exploring using the barge as an interactive space where people can learn about new technology.”

In a follow-up, a Google spokeswoman said the company was referring to both barges.

Google has been building a four-story structure on the Bay for several weeks, but managed to conceal its purpose by constructing it on docked barges instead of on land, where San Francisco building permits and public plans are mandatory.

Until now, city officials responsible for land use and state officials responsible for the Bay have said they didn’t know what was being built there. Coast Guard inspectors who visited the construction sites could not discuss what they saw.

Lt. Anna Dixon said nondisclosure agreements were signed, but that those were not necessary and that the Coast Guard, as a practice, doesn’t share proprietary information it sees during inspections.

If Google wants to operate an on-barge interactive learning center on the Bay, the firm will eventually need to get permission from the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

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