UC Merced Submits Revised Permit Application, As Planned, For Next Phase of Campus, University Community Development

Reconfigured "footprint" announced last fall will reduce impacts on wetlands while supporting full development of campus and community

MERCED, CA— The University of California, Merced said today (March 13) it has submitted a revised permit application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for the full development of its campus and associated University Community.

The revised application reflects modifications in the "footprint" of the combined developments, which the university announced in October 2007. The reconfigured layout will reduce impacts on wetlands by more than 33 percent while supporting full development of the campus and contiguous community, primarily housing and support services for the university.

USACE has jurisdiction over federally protected wetlands and must issue a development permit under Section 404 of the U.S. Clean Water Act.

"We are very pleased to move ahead with this revised application and begin the public review process," said Steve Kang, UC Merced chancellor. "The modified footprint we announced last fall was widely regarded as a major step forward in the complex federal permitting process. The slightly repositioned design will enable the university to develop to its full potential and serve the vital needs of the region and state while significantly reducing impacts on wetlands."

Local officials welcome the revised permitting strategy employed by the university, emphasizing the importance of comprehensive long-term planning both for the campus and the region.

Congressman Dennis Cardoza said, "I commend the University for submitting an application that meets the long-term needs of the University while at the same time meeting the regulatory requirements. We should all keep an eye on the primary goal - to build a world class public research university befitting of the Central Valley. This permit, which delineates the physical boundaries of the campus plan, will allow the University to continue planning for the future."

Kathleen Crookham, chairman of the Merced County Board of Supervisors added: "The University has developed a revised campus plan in response to concerns voiced by federal agencies, and the County remains committed to working with the University to reflect these revisions into the County's General Plan."

Added Bill Cahill, assistant city manager of Merced: "Obtaining the permit will allow UC Merced to expand its educational mission and further its research goals, benefiting Merced and the entire region. UC Merced is poised to play a bigger role as an economic engine in the Valley."

Kang said the application has been reviewed by USACE and deemed "complete," allowing the public review process to begin this spring. Public hearings and comment opportunities will be scheduled and announced by USACE.

In addition, UC Merced will host a public forum on campus to give community members a closer look at its long-term development plans, which will support as many as 25,000 students by 2035. Preliminary plans for the University Community, positioned directly south of the campus, will also be discussed. The session will be held Tuesday, April 1, 2008, 5:30 p.m. - 7 p.m. in the California Room on campus.

For the first time, UC Merced's revised application includes both the campus and the northern portion of the University Community, which is jointly owned by the Virginia Smith Trust and the University of California. (LWH Farms, LLC owns the southern portion of the University Community.) The original applications, submitted in 2002, did not include the University Community because plans were not complete at that time.

"Combining the two developments into a single application provides a clear picture of their symbiotic relationship and why it's vitally important that they be positioned on contiguous sites," said Kang.

As announced last fall, the revised campus layout will total approximately 810 acres, compared with the previous plan of 910 acres. The University Community, situated directly south of the campus, will total approximately 2,115 acres, compared with 2,133 acres in the original plan. The total for the University Community is 45 acres less than announced last fall.

By shifting the campus layout slightly south and the University Community slightly south and east, the new design will reduce impacts on wetlands by more than 33 percent (approximately 80 acres versus 121 in the previous design) on a modestly smaller combined footprint. Campus officials believe repositioned facilities, increased density and other measures will compensate for the reduction in total acreage.

"The new configuration actually strengthens the interrelationships among synergistic elements of the campus and University Community," said Thomas Lollini, campus architect. "Examples include research and development activities, and cultural and recreational venues."

Construction activities on the current phase of campus development are not affected by the revised plans. The 105-acre parcel now under development can accommodate up to 5,000 students. Enrollment to date totals just under 2,000 students.

The University Community will include a research park, residential, commercial and retail buildings, schools, entertainment venues, parks, trails and support services for campus operations. Plans for the project are being developed by the University Community Land Company, LLC, which is jointly owned by the University of California and the Virginia Smith Trust.

As managing member of the UCLC, the University will seek an amendment to the University Community Plan through the County of Merced, the land-use governing authority, to accommodate the revised design.

A joint Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Study for both the campus and the northern portion of the University Community will also be prepared. Public hearings will be part of the review and approval process, expected to take 12-14 months.

Development of wetlands acreage in the modified design will be fully offset by mitigation measures, as required under the U.S. Clean Water Act, to ensure "no net loss" of wetlands values and functions, the university said. In addition, approximately 2,318 acres of in-kind wetland habitat will be set aside for permanent preservation, a ratio of 30 acres preserved for every acre of wetlands developed.

UC Merced's revised application is available at the USACE Website.

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