LOS ANGELES (December 18, 2008) – A treasured state beach visited by millions of people annually will remain protected thanks to a decision from the U.S. Department of Commerce today. The Secretary of Commerce upheld objections by the California Coastal Commission over the Transportation Corridor Agency’s (TCA) plans to build a six-lane, 16-mile highway through one of the most ecologically diverse state beaches in California’s state parks system.
Following is a statement by Joel Reynolds, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC):
“The Secretary’s decision confirms just how bad this project really is: Even the Bush administration, under pressure from all the lobbyists money can buy, has refused to endorse the toll road through San Onofre. In my 30 years experience, I have never seen a project more deserving of rejection. It is now time for the Transportation Corridor Agency to stop spending scarce resources on lobbyists and lawyers, and begin to focus on widening of Interstate 5 as the best answer to traffic congestion in the region.”
“The transportation agency lobbied 20 years for this toll road, spent millions of dollars on lobbyists, and were trying to shove the $1.1 billion dollars for this road onto the shoulders of tax payers already burdened by the economy. You simply couldn’t design a transportation project that does more harm to taxpayers and the environment and less good for congestion relief.”
San Onofre is an irreplaceable natural treasure visited by nearly 2.5 million people every year. The park is home to 11 threatened or endangered species and contains significant portions of San Mateo Creek, one of the last unspoiled watersheds in California. According to California State Parks, the toll road would have required 60 percent of the park be closed.
In February 2008, the California Coastal Commission voted 8-2 to block a massive toll road from destroying San Onofre, the fifth-most visited park in California. More than 3,500 people attended the public hearing, the largest number in the history of the Commission. The TCA appealed the Coastal Commission’s landmark decision to the U.S. Department of Commerce, which has override authority.
In September, the Department of Commerce allowed a public hearing in Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego County, which more than 6,000 people attended with hundreds of people providing testimony to save the state beach.