By Bob Egelko
Environmentalists have won a round in the state Supreme Court in their challenge to a planned expansion of the campus at UC Santa Cruz.
The University of California and the city of Santa Cruz had appealed a lower-court ruling requiring the city to conduct a new environmental study and consider alternative plans that would use less water. On Wednesday, the court denied review.
The proposed North Campus, approved by the UC Board of Regents in 2006, would cover 240 acres outside the city limits and allow the university to increase its 17,000-student enrollment by about 2,000.
The city, which provides water and sewer services to the university, approved an environmental study in 2010 that acknowledged municipal water supplies would be inadequate for the expansion in the event of a future drought. But it said shortages could be addressed through conservation and construction of a desalination plant.
In November, however, the Sixth District Court of Appeal in San Jose said the city should have considered the option of a smaller expansion or one that would use less water.
The city’s water sources already “face threats in the future” and would come under further strain from supplying the expanded campus, the court said in a 3-0 ruling.
The new study ordered by the court could endorse the original plan or a smaller alternative.
Stephan Volker, lawyer for Habitat and Watershed Caretakers, the group that challenged the project, said the latest court action was “great news for the fishes and frogs of the county’s already over-tapped rivers and streams” and for the “primeval redwood forests and pristine wetland meadows of the undeveloped North Campus.”
Representatives of the city and the university were unavailable for comment. Sabrina Teller, a lawyer for the city, said after the November ruling that Santa Cruz should be able to comply with the court’s order.
The case is Habitat and Watershed Caretakers vs. Santa Cruz, S209675.