For the third time in six years, a regulatory agency has put the brakes on an ill-conceived toll road project in Orange County.
On Wednesday, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board voted 3-2 to deny the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency’s (TCA) application for a key water quality permit for the first segment of the destructive Foothill-South Toll Road in south Orange County. I've been blogging about this important hearing for the last few months (here and here), and I'm thrilled that the decision went our way.
We thought this road was dead in 2008 when, after record-setting hearings where NRDC, our coalition partners, and thousands of activists turned out to speak against the toll road, both the California Coastal Commission and the Bush administration’s Department of Commerce rejected the 16-mile highway project because of potentially devastating impacts to the coastline.
TCA’s response was to attempt to circumvent those state and federal decisions by building and permitting the road in pieces instead of all at once. This was illegal, and wrong. Fortunately, a majority of the San Diego water board agreed with us on Wednesday that TCA’s intent is really to build the entire 16-mile road and not just the first 5.5-mile segment, and that therefore all of the project’s impacts for the entire road needed to be analyzed before moving forward.
A big thank you goes out to the hundreds of surfers, park advocates, conservationists and concerned citizens who came to Wednesday’s hearing in San Diego and the previous hearing in Costa Mesa in March to speak out against the road. We are also extremely grateful for the outstanding collaboration we've enjoyed with our Save San Onofre Coalition partners Surfrider Foundation, California State Parks Foundation, Endangered Habitats League, Orange County Coastkeeper, Sierra Club, Audubon, WildCoast/CostaSalvaje and the California Coastal Protection Network. This has truly been a team effort.
This vote is an enormous win for every Californian who cares about protecting water quality and our precious beaches and state parks. We hope that this latest setback convinces TCA to rethink its approach and stop pursuing this ill-advised road project once and for all.
Photo: San Onofre State Beach, courtesy of Steve Francis