After many years of study and environmental review, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has granted the University of California the key federal permit required for the development of its tenth campus in Merced, California, and an associated university community to be developed in conjunction with the campus. When fully developed, the UC Merced campus will accommodate approximately 25,000 students.
The permit was required because development of the campus and university community will impact approximately 80 acres of federally-protected wetlands. UC Merced filed its initial permit application in 2002 and, after working productively with a group of agency officials and environmental organizations to identify ways to reduce the impacts of the project while ensuring the future success of the campus, filed a new permit application in 2008. This roundtable process has been hailed as a success by all involved.
The permit will allow development of approximately 1,600 acres directly south and east of UC Merced’s existing 104-acre campus site. Within this expansion area, approximately 800 acres will be allocated to campus development and 800 acres will be allocated to development of the northern portion of the university community site, which will include a research park, shops, services, and related amenities to support the campus. The southern portion of the university community, consisting of approximately 1,100 acres directly south of the northern portion, is not a part of the current permit.
The new campus design is described in the Long-Range Development Plan (LRDP) adopted earlier this year by the UC Regents, and which was evaluated in a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) prepared by the University and the Army Corps of Engineers. The LRDP describes the layout, form, character and qualities of the fully developed campus and outlines the University’s intentions to set new standards for sustainable development and environmental stewardship. The EIS/EIR examines the reduced environmental effects of its new, smaller footprint and summarizes the University’s plans to offset or mitigate the remaining impacts. Development under the new permit could begin as soon as this month, when the University begins construction of a solar-energy facility to help supply future electricity needs. Full development of the campus and community is expected to take at least another 25 years.
The authors of this briefing represented the University of California throughout the eight-year process leading to the issuance of the wetlands permit.