The Save San Onofre Coalition and the Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) announced Thursday a settlement has been reached over a decade long development project proposal that threatened Trestles, one of the most high profile waves in the world.
“We’re absolutely elated, ” said Stefanie Sekich-Quinn, Coastal Preservation Manager at the Surfrider Foundation. “After 10 years of hard work we ended up with a settlement that protects San Onofre State Beach forever, which is exactly what we wanted.”
The project, initially proposed by the TCA, would have resulted in a six-lane toll road cutting through San Onofre State Beach, destroying thousands of acres of open space replete with endangered species, polluting and altering the watershed, and ultimately impacting the natural factors that make Trestles the world class surf destination that it is.
Surfrider and its Save San Onofre Coalition, comprised of 12 organizations, has been an integral force in the fight against the proposed toll road. The coalition made history by organizing a turnout of nearly 4,000 people at a California Coastal Commission hearing in 2008 – the largest in Commission history – where the road was unanimously rejected. When the TCA went to Washington in an effort to get an appeal of the decision, more than 3,500 attended a Department of Commerce hearing to voice their opposition, and the appeal was denied.
Sekich-Quinn is clear that the victory wasn’t the result of a single person or even a single organization, rather the thousands of people that came out in force over the years. “This is really the power of the people,” she said. “I don’t think I can understate the power of activism here.”
In spite of the TCA’s best efforts over the years to orchestrate a plan to build the road in segments, advocacy and the dedication of an invigorated constituency pushed State and Regional Quality Control Boards to continue to reject the project.
Now, after lawsuits levied against the TCA by the Save San Onofre Coalition and the California Attorney General, parties have reached a settlement that creates “avoidance areas” where the TCA is prohibited from building or funding road projects. These include the areas of San Onofre State Beach, the Richard and Donna O’Neill Conservancy and other open space areas critical to the environmental wellbeing of the San Mateo Creek watershed.
The settlement also calls for the creation of a $28 million conservation fund in an effort to preserve and restore San Mateo Creek and its watershed.
The news represents a victorious conclusion to one of the hardest fought environmental battles in California history.