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UC Prevails in Suit Over Merced Campus

Citing impact, three environmental groups tried to stop building.

June 25, 2003|From Associated Press

MERCED — University of California officials won a court victory Tuesday over environmentalists who threatened to halt construction of a new Central Valley campus scheduled to open next year.

The 5th District Court of Appeal ruled in Fresno that UC regents properly evaluated the potential impact of the state's 10th campus planned in Merced, a farming community of 60,000.

Three environmental groups had sued in an effort to stop construction, contending that university officials inadequately assessed the campus' impact on air pollution, water and growth.

In arguments last month, lawyers for the San Joaquin Raptor Center, Protect Our Water and the Central Valley Safe Environment Network alleged the new campus would destroy fairy shrimp habitat and draw down the region's limited water supply.

Tuesday's court ruling upheld a Merced County Superior Court decision, which supported the university's environmental analysis. University officials maintained the campus has adequate water and noted that thousands of acres surrounding the campus are protected from development.

Tuesday's ruling "affirms full compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act," Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey said.

Construction has begun on part of the campus, designed to cover more than 900 acres of rural foothills three miles northeast of Merced.

Gov. Gray Davis and university officials broke ground for the campus in October, saying it will grow to 25,000 students by 2020.

Patience Milrod, attorney for the environmental groups, said Tuesday she had not seen the ruling and no decision had been made about taking the fight to a higher court.

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