MERCED, CA — The University of California, Merced and the County of Merced today filed important documents in the state permitting process for the new UC Merced campus, it was announced by UC Merced Vice Chancellor for Physical Planning Clifford Graves and Merced County Administrative Officer/UC Project Director Gregory Wellman.
Under the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act, the University and the County each submitted formal “Notices of Preparation of Environmental Impact Report” [EIR]. The notices were submitted to the State Clearinghouse at the Governor's Office of Planning and Research, as well as a number of state and federal agencies and interested parties. The notices signal the start of the environmental review process for the proposed campus.
UC Merced EIR
The notice from the University indicates intent to prepare an EIR assessing a proposed Long Range Development Plan [LRDP] for creation of the new 2000-acre campus on the southwest corner of the Virginia Smith Trust [VST] site, including the Merced Hills Golf Course, which is owned by VST.
The EIR will evaluate the environmental impacts of development and operation of a campus envisioned to host 25,000 students and approximately 6,600 faculty and staff at full build-out. Full build-out would be expected to occur sometime after 2035.
All potential impacts to the environment will be analyzed in the UC Merced EIR, including: aesthetics; air quality; biological resources; cultural resources; geology and soils; hydrology and water quality; land use; noise; population and housing/growth inducement; public services; recreation; transportation/traffic, utilities and service systems; construction impacts, and cumulative impacts.
The EIR will propose methods to avoid or reduce the environmental impacts that are identified. The document will also evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of alternative configurations and locations for the proposed campus. The Bellevue Ranch and Castle Airport and Aviation Center sites will be included among the alternatives that will be examined.
County of Merced EIR
The notice from the County indicates intent to prepare an EIR for the University Community Plan [UCP] and associated University Community Plan - Area Plan [Area Plan], which would create a community development of approximately 2,000 acres adjacent to the proposed UC Merced campus.
The community would host approximately 30,000 residents at full build-out sometime after 2035. According to the filing, the proposed community would be generally located to the south of the Merced Hills Golf Course, extending southward to Yosemite Avenue.
Several areas of potential impact to the environment will be analyzed in the County EIR, including: aesthetics; agricultural resources; air quality; biological resources; cultural resources; geology and soils; hydrology and water quality; land use planning; noise; population, employment, and housing; public services; transportation/circulation, utilities and service systems; and cumulative impacts.
The County's EIR will be prepared in coordination with the University's EIR, and will cover the same range of environmental issues. The EIR will propose measures to avoid or reduce any environmental impacts that are identified. At this time, the County anticipates that the alternatives analysis will include, but not be limited to, sites in and around Bellevue Ranch in north Merced and Castle Airport and Aviation Center in Atwater.
Public Comment and Meetings
The documents will also be available in print upon request. Those interested in receiving printed copies of the documents are asked write UC Merced and the County of Merced, at the following addresses: [University] Christopher Adams, Campus Planner-UC Merced, 1170 West Olive, Merced, CA 95348. [County] Robert Smith, UC Merced Project Planning Director, Merced County, 3351 M Street, Suite 240, Merced, CA 95348.
Comments on the document should be received no later than 5:00 p.m. on Monday, March 19, 2001; comments should be sent to the addresses above.
The University and County intend to hold a public scoping meeting on the contents of the EIR on March 9, 2001 beginning at 10 a.m. in the County of Merced Board of Supervisors Meeting Room, 2222 M Street, Merced, CA 95340.
Federal Permitting Process
The University and the County of Merced have initiated a federal permitting process that will proceed during the environmental review under CEQA.
Several sites in eastern Merced County are being analyzed based on a number of variables, including: surveys of natural and biological resources, economic feasibility, consistency with the County General Plan, and other variables.
Four of the site alternatives being considered are on the Virginia Smith Trust lands. Other sites being reviewed include Castle Airport and Bellevue Ranch.