The California 5th District Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday in favor of the University in its legal battle with three Merced-based environmental groups.

The San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, Protect Our Water and the Central Valley Safe Environment Network jointly filed suit in February 2002 alleging that the environmental impact report for UC Merced did not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act. The court ruled that the UC Board of Regents acted properly under state law in certifying the Environmental Impact Report and the Long Range Development Plan for the campus.

The first phase of construction for the UC Merced campus is currently underway near Lake Yosemite, a reservoir northeast of Merced. Officials had expressed concerns that the lawsuit would delay the project. The university is set to open in fall 2004.

The environmental groups originally sued claiming that the UC refused to release public information regarding the nature and environmental impact of the project and failed to adequately address the impact of the project on the surrounding area.

As part of the creation of the campus, the university agreed to set aside and help protect thousands of acres of vernal pool habitats near the site.