Environment Native American

Saving San Onofre


Arnold Schwarzenegger, California Transportation Corridor Agency
and a very long list of California law makers are very gung ho about a project known as the Orange County Foothill South Toll Project, which would build a nice new toll highway right through San Onofre State Park. The idea is that the new toll highway extension, which has been part of Orange County Master Plan since 1981, would take some of the traffic load off of the overcrowded I-5 Freeway.

However, a fascinating confluence of strange bedfellows oppose the toll road’s construction—including the Southern California’s surfers, a coalition of the state’s environmentalists, the Acjachemen tribal elders (who say the rode would decimate their most sacred ancestral site)—and the US Marines whose spokesman said stopping the road is a national security issue.

“This construction is one more encroachment that will hinder our (Marine Corps) ability to prepare for war,” said Camp Pendleton Marine Crops Commandant James Jones.

Oh, yeah, Barbara Boxer, Henry Waxman, Maxine Waters, Brad Sherman, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Jane Harman and twenty other California lawmakers are also against it.

So is the California Coastal Commission. After the Coastal Commission held a hearing in early February of this year at which 3500 extremely unhappy surfers, environmentalists and tribes people showed up and wouldn’t leave for another 14 hours until they’d had a chance to have their say, the CCC voted 8-2 against the project and issued a 249 page report that concluded, “… the toll road’s impacts would be permanent, irreversible, and, for the most part, immitigable..”


In short, said the CCC,
the road idea as presently located….really, really sucks.

Indeed according to its opponents, the havoc that the toll road would wreak is considerable. It would will run directly through San Onofre Beach State Park, the 2028 park that with 2.7 million visitors a year, is the fifth-most popular destination in the state’s 278-park system.


It would cut in half San Mateo Creek,
which supplies sand to one of the most famous surf spots in the world, the Trestles surf breaks—thus wrecking the Trestles.

It would destroy Panhe the site sacred to the Acjachemen, thus compromising their ability to practice their religion.

And it would threaten a bunch of endangered species. (This includes the Pacific pocket mouse. Did you know there was such a creature as the Pacific pocket mouse? No? I didn’t either. But I do now. If they build the road, the pocket mouse is definitely gonzo according to the CCC. )

Plus there’s the whole thing about coming way too close to the Marine base at Camp Pendleton.

Opponents argue that a toll road built next to the I-5, while more expensive and would require condemning hundreds of homes, is a far better choice.

Sure such a list would be enough to kill the project, right? Wrong.

The state intends to go ahead and says that, according to its own environmental reports, the park, the Trestles and the pocket mouse will be fine.

Environmental experts who are not, uh….receiving consulting fees from the State’s transportation agency, say those reports are pretty much horse pucky.

So the opponents of the toll road backed by the above-mentioned 27-person Congressional Delegation appealed to the U.S. Department of Commerce for help.

In response, the Commerce folks will hold a public hearing on the matter next Monday, September 22, from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. at O’Brien Hall at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in Del Mar. (More info about the meeting et al, may be found here.)

Ten thousand people are expected to show up.

If the project is allowed to go ahead, says the City Project’s Robert Garcia, “it would be the first time in California history that state park lands were taken by a local governmental entity for a major infrastructure project. Allowing this project to proceed would set a dangerous precedent…”


(Of course since the state seems incapible of getting itself a budget, this may all be moot.)

1 Comment

  • Thanks for covering this issue in so much depth, its really important to us down here in Del Mar. We have a little surf camp called Fulcrum Surf Studio so we’re in the water all of the time.

    If people spent more time interacting with nature they’d be more interested in protecting it. Thanks again.

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