By James Clark
UC Santa Cruz’s Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) has been delayed after a judge’s ruling on Sept. 21.
The most recent decision was based on the previous August ruling that said the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) failed to address traffic, water and housing issues. The September ruling halted construction of the Biomedical Sciences facility.
The controversial LRDP includes plans for UCSC to grow to accommodate an additional 4,500 students, bringing the planned enrollment to 19,500. Along with the new students will come new research facilities, new classrooms and new living quarters.
Don Stevens, a UCSC alumnus and head of the Coalition for Limiting University Expansion (CLUE), brought up an issue that community members and students share.
“Who determines that UCSC should grow?” Stevens asked. “The LRDP rationale is that UCSC must take its fair share, but nowhere is it discussed how that fair share is determined and who determines it.” The idea of “fair share” refers to the number of students each UC should accommodate in the coming years.
In addition to concerns over who decides what the LRDP will outline and who will pay for the city’s increased costs, are concerns over EIR specifics, primarily water usage.
“The water supply will be exhausted by 2015,” Stevens said. Bill Kocher, director of the Santa Cruz Water Department, added, “We will not be able to sustain UCSC’s intended growth without an additional water source.”
The Santa Cruz Water Department is currently in the process of creating and manning a pilot desalinization plant. The plant will be used as a test model. Depending on the results of the plant’s operation, it could be expanded, said Kocher, who added that if the plant were to be expanded, several “hot button issues” would need to be addressed.
“There is the possibility that the plant will induce growth. Instead of accommodating growth, it may encourage it,” Kocher said. “The plant also uses more energy than most other water sources, and leaves waste from the desalinization process.”
The director added that in addition to finding an environmentally-safe way of dumping the waste, the plant must also find a way to intake seawater without harming sea life.
In the end, the pilot plant is expected to cost around $4 million to construct, staff and operate. A full-scale plant was estimated to cost $38 million, but according to Kocher, “that’s a low number considering what has happened to construction costs.”
At the last court hearing, construction for the biomedical facility was placed on hold until the EIR is amended. UCSC spokesperson Jim Burns stated that “the biomedical science facility has been caught up in litigation and subsequently delayed.”
The Timber Harvest Permit, which is needed to log the trees where the biomedical facility will be built, has yet to be issued. Rich Sampson, chief of the Felton CalFire office, said, “Construction has been put on hold. We will not be doing any further work until the situation changes with the court case concerning the EIR.”