The November 10th settlement that the Orange County Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) agreed to end a lawsuit filed by a group of environmental groups over a planned route for completion of the Orange County 241 toll road, means that the 15-year-battle to build the road moves to a new location and a possible not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) fight with the cities of San Juan Capistrano or San Clemente.
The settlement guarantees that the toll road will not intrude into the mostly dry San Mateo Creek watershed that empties during the rainy season at San Onofre’s Trestles surfing beach. It rules out a route through San Onofre State Beach, pays the enviros about $7 million in legal fees for their efforts and creates a $28 million “habitat restoration fund” for the Trestles area.
Ironically, the out-of-the-way surf beach is named for a transportation project, a wooden railroad trestle, which was recently rebuilt in concrete and paved paths also have altered the area. The Navy built the new trestle to enhance a railroad underpass within the area to allow bigger tactical vehicles to move from the beach to inland training areas on the massive Camp Pendleton Marine base.
The area is leased to the state of California by the Navy because then President Richard Nixon, who lived at nearby San Clemente, asked for the accommodation for local surfers.
Speaking of San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano, their representatives were the only members of the TCA Board to vote against the settlement with the enviro groups, likely because they knew about the potential for the toll road to traverse their cities at some spots.
The NIMBY effort surfaced at San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente meetings in the days that followed the settlement agreement. San Clemente council members directed their city manager to develop an action plan to try to forestall a toll road bisecting the town.
The TCA representative from San Juan Capistrano’s City Council, Kerry Ferguson, took a similar tack at her own council meeting. “…What they’ve done with one stroke is put a tremendous potential pressure on both San Clemente and San Juan.” Ferguson said of the settlement, adding “We will be talking about this more in the future.”
San Clemente’s city attorney said staff already is discussing route options and legal scenarios.