UC Merced environmental permit retrospective

Below is a list of articles reflecting the major milestones in the UC Merced Clean Water Act permitting process. Will our 800-Pound Scoflaw Blue-and Gold Goose Anchor Tenant pass the test? Will Merced achieve the greatness of Modesto, recently voted in one study the worst city to live in in the nation? Or will we become just another Fresno with UC and development from Highway 99 to the foothills? What kind of science will the research university be practicing, guided by its memorandum of understanding with UC/Bechtel et al/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, now building the next generation of nuclear warheads and proposing a biosafety level-4 biowarfare laboratory near Tracy, to go along with its slightly less lethally dangerous level-3 lab in Livermore?

Amid all the questions, there is one certainty: not one elected official from the city to the federal government will mutter a word in defense of the health and safety of the Merced public today against UC Merced tomorrow nor a word in defense of the natural resources that sustain what is left of health in the environment.

Badlands editorial staff

Modesto Bee
UC Merced's expansion on hold as study continues...Michelle Hatfield

UC Merced's expansion remains on hold while Army Corps of Engineers officials finish a study that could permit the school to build over protected vernal pools. More than five years after the application was submitted, and after an additional year of subsequent delays, the corps is still a few steps away from completing revisions to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. After the draft is released, the corps will take public comment for 60 days. A final decision will then be made, pushing the timeline well into 2008. If denied, UC Merced has three alternative sites — two spots near neighboring Lake Yosemite and one in Livingston, about 15miles northwest of the campus. Corps officials gave no specifics for the delay, but said the draft study is going through "a number of revisions," said Lt. Col. James Porter of the corps' Sacramento office. UC Merced officials will meet with representatives from the corps, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service early next month. There is no updated release date for the draft report, Porter said... Seasonally flooded depressions...UC Merced is home to thousands of vernal pools, according to watchdog Web site vernalpools.org. UC Merced officials set aside 25,000 acres of wetlands for preservation....proposed plans call for expansion of its 104-acre campus and the construction of a 2,000-acre university community of housing and shopping. "It's about balancing and minimizing the impacts to wetlands and ag land," Young said. The corps needs to decide whether the expansion is the "least environmentally damaging practicable alternative."... University completing its reports...While corps officials keep postponing the study's release, UC Merced officials are busy completing their environmental reports for expansion, Young said. UC Merced officials are optimistic about reaching the end of the permitting process. Even if the delays continue, they have enough room to grow on the current 104 acres,... "Although we are finishing out our housing project, we're not maximizing our use of the 104 acres (yet),"...Upcoming projects include a social sciences and management building, a second science and engineering building, more student housing, possibly a child care unit and an infrastructure plant, Young said. That will end Phase I of construction, which is meant to accommodate 5,000 students. Officials expect fewer than 2,000 this fall, the campus's third year.

Tiny shrimp could put big hitch in development plan...Leslie Albrecht, Merced Sun-Star...http://www.modbee.com/local/story/13349413p-13972980c.html

Builders in Merced might have to shuffle order of construction. Fairy shrimp, the tiny critters that derailed the University of California at Merced's original building plans, now are forcing developers to rethink the future of Bellevue Ranch, the largest development planned within Merced city limits.

Corps moves faster on UC growth plan...Victor A. Patton, Merced Sun-Star

A long-awaited report crucial to UC Merced's 900-acre expansion plans might be available by late February, university and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials say. UC Merced's expansion just east of Lake Yosemite would cover 93 acres, 72 of which contain vernal pools with endangered species.

Permit trouble ahead in Merced...Corinne Reilly, Merced Sun-Star...

University's proposal to expand questioned by Corps of Engineers...the vision for expanding the University of California at Merced beyond 100 acres could be forced to change. A permit the university needs in order to build on federally protected wetlands likely will not be granted to allow the university to move forward with a 900-acre expansion plan, according to a senior manager at the Army Corps of Engineers... "We feel that the project they have proposed, at this point, isn't permittable," Kevin Roukey, a senior project manager in charge of UC Merced permitting, said Tuesday

Lawsuits challenge species protection...Bee Staff Reports and News Service

A conservative legal foundation on Wednesday filed lawsuits challenging federal protection for 42 species — including two fairy shrimp that kept the University of California off the university's preferred building site near Merced... Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation asserts that the government's critical habitat designations drive up housing costs and taxes and harm private property rights without doing much to save species...filed its lawsuits simultaneously in Fresno and Sacramento federal courts... The foundation filed the lawsuits on behalf of the Home Builders Association of Northern California, the Building Industry Legal Defense Foundation, the California Building Industry Association and the California State Grange.

UC Merced needs permit to grow...Cheri Carlson, Merced Sun-Star...

University of California at Merced ...doesn't have a permit to put up more than the first several buildings needed to educate the first wave of students. To fully develop its 910-acre campus adjacent to Lake Yosemite, the university needs a permit to fill more than 80 acres of wetlands. In February 2002, UC Merced and Merced County applied to the corps for a permit. The university hoped to have it in by January 2004, a schedule the corps called optimistic. It will be three or four years before the university will need money -- and the permit -- for construction outside the golf course boundaries. Wetlands, vernal pools will be analyzed... Administrators are working closely with the corps and other government agencies to make sure they are doing what's required. Nancy Haley, the corps' UC Merced project manager...in general, more than 90 percent of projects receive permits. However, she said, most projects go out the door looking differently than they did coming in. The permit process is not behind schedule, according to the corps Haley said it's a huge project and it's hard to predict how long it will take.