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Project Overview

UC Announces 10th Campus Search
Site Evaluations Narrow the Field
Merced Site Selected by Regents
Planning Efforts Begin
Conceptual Plan Developed
Federal Permitting Underway
Site Shifted to Protect Sensitive Resources
Packard Gift Advances Habitat Preservation
Environmental Impact Reports Begin

UC Announces 10th Campus Search
In 1988, the Board of Regents of the University of California launched a search for a location for a new UC campus. The search quickly was narrowed to California’s Central Valley, which was the state’s largest and most populous region without its own UC campus.

More than 85 sites in the Central Region were submitted to the University for consideration. That initial list of sites was screen to twenty "Candidate" sites. The Candidate sites were evaluated on such key factors as proximity to population centers and accessibility, which resulted in the identification by the University in eight "Preferred" sites.

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Site Evaluations Narrow the Field
A consultant team that included biologists, cultural resources experts, engineers, economists, and academic planning experts evaluated the eight Preferred sites. This evaluation also included several major public meetings of the University’s Site Selection Task Force in Bakersfield, Fresno, and Modesto. Each of these meetings was attended by hundreds of people.

Through analysis of such factors as transportation, demographics, housing, geo-technical conditions, public support, environmental constraints, and the availability of public services, the University narrowed the Preferred sites to three "Finalist" sites: Lake Yosemite in Merced County, Table Mountain in Madera County, and Academy in Fresno County. These three Finalist sites were evaluated in the UC San Joaquin Valley Campus Site Selection EIR.

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Merced Site Selected by Regents
On May 19, 1995, the University certified a programmatic Environmental Impact Report and selected the Lake Yosemite site as the optimal location for the University’s tenth campus. The selection of the Merced location was based upon the gift of land by the Virginia Smith Trust, the attendant scholarship funds, the diverse population that would be served, the tremendous community support, the potential to mitigate sensitive environmental issues, the availability of water for campus and community needs, and convenient access for Valley students.

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Planning Efforts Begin
Following the completion of the University’s site selection process, state, local, and regional officials initiated efforts to define and implement appropriate planning and resource conservation measures required to address challenges associated with the UC Merced project. In October 1996, the County of Merced amended its General Plan to designate a Specific Urban Development Plan (SUDP) area and establish a number of public planning objectives for the next several decades. These goals and objectives include agricultural preservation, resource and wetland conservation, low-impact urban development, and the timely construction of UC Merced. In April 1997, the City of Merced included the SUDP within its sphere of influence and agreed to work cooperatively with the County to realize the proposed project.

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Conceptual Plan Developed
In February 1998, Merced County, the University of California, the City of Merced, the Virginia Smith Trust, and the Merced Irrigation District initiated a collaborative Concept Planning Phase for the University Community. In conjunction with this effort, the County of Merced adopted a Guidance Package to formalize project planning and review and to assure that university development would be consistent with the General Plan. The first phase of this planning process culminated in the publication of the University Community Concept Report in May 1999.

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Federal Permitting Underway
Concurrent with the Concept Planning Phase process, the University and the County initiated early discussions with state and federal regulatory agencies to help expedite anticipated Section 404 and related permit applications. At that time, planning was focused primarily on the Lake Yosemite area.

A formal wetland delineation, consistent with the Army Corps of Engineers 1987 Manual, was prepared, and extensive surveys of endangered vernal pool crustaceans, plants, amphibians and mammals were conducted during 1999 and 2000. Because these resources present a significant constraint to development, UC and the County initiated an analysis of fifteen sites within Eastern Merced County to determine whether there are any alternatives to the originally-selected site that might satisfy their mutual objectives with less adverse impact on aquatic resources. These efforts resulted in the development of the Comprehensive Alternatives Analysis (CAA), which identified a revised location for the campus that is practicable and satisfies UC's and the County's objectives while reducing aquatic impacts.

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Site Shifted to Protect Sensitive Resources
The new location sites the initial campus buildings on what is now the Merced Hills Golf Course, about three miles south of the initial campus site, but still within the property of the Virginia Smith Trust. The proposed campus community has likewise been moved to the south, off of the most environmentally sensitive lands, closer to existing urban development patterns, infrastructure, and to the City of Merced.

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Packard Gift Advances Habitat Preservation
In an historic agreement unveiled in March 2001, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation announced an $11+ million grant to acquire the entire 7030 acres of the Virginia Smith Trust. The Packard Foundation will create a 5030 acre preserve of sensitive vernal pool habitat and will provide the 2000 acre balance to the University of California, which will in turn create a 750 acre UC natural reserve adjacent to the new UC Merced campus. The Virginia Smith Trust will use the proceeds from the acquisition to bolster its scholarship endowment, pay off long-term loans on the golf course property, and invest in the future proposed campus community.

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Environmental Impact Reports Begin
The University of California and the County of Merced are in the process of preparing separate Environmental Impact Reports on the campus and campus community, respectively. The Notices of Preparation on both of these EIRs were filed in February 2001 with draft EIRs anticipated on both projects by July 2001. The federal permitting process is being pursued simultaneously in order to facilitate future campus expansion beyond the current golf course property.

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This page was last updated on April 17, 2002

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