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Exclusive interview with Surfrider Foundation about next phase in battle to save Trestles
Photos: Photos: Tostee/
March 18, 2006
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Just because the Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) approved the route for the 241-Toll Road extension, which would potentially threaten Trestles, it doesn't mean they'll necessarily break ground on the project. There are countless permits to be obtained. Approval by the stringent EPA and others is also needed. Plus, numerous trip wires and booby traps are set in place to halt the construction in hopes to salvage the quality of California's premier surfing venue. Since the TCA's decision, city resolutions, letters to the Governor and alternative solutions have been springing up almost daily.
While the real fight may have seemingly just begun, Surfline sought out Surfrider Foundation's Matt McClain to discuss the reality of other options, the impact of the current oppositions and what must still be done in order to Save Trestles.
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Apart from the temporary contest scaffolding, this photo could've been shot in 1854 -- you can't say that for many places in SoCal. Photo: Tostee/

Surfline: Hey Matt, how are things going with the folks at the TCA since we last spoke?

Matt McClain: Well, they voted to approve the recommended green alignment with the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which takes the Toll Road along San Mateo watershed directly through portions of San Onofre State Park. It wasn't entirely unexpected though. Now the campaign will move to a different phase -- likely involving litigation. We'll be filing an action along with our coalition partners.

So they approved the EIR, but numerous claims have surfaced stating that the report was highly inaccurate.

There were bits of both omissions and inaccuracies in the EIR. There were certain issues with the watershed and some issues weren't even addressed at all. The Toll Road will run along upper portions of the watershed and certainly affect the sedimentation and hydrology of the lower creek bed. The TCA didn't take this into account -- not like a more comprehensive EIR would. The entire point is based on that Delta that was created by the creek over the last millennium. If you look up the creek you'll see it lined by the same rocks and sand that are down at the point. You don't need to be Geologist, to know that Trestles beach is fed by San Mateo Creek.

A recent poll of 800 random registered voters showed that 56% oppose a toll road project through a state park. If a majority of people are against it, how could it still come to pass?

The message here is that our state park and coastal resources are very important to California residents. You can go to San Onofre and have a great time, camp and experience what Coastal California was like before all the urban sprawl. The poll sends a great message to the TCA and elected officials that, if approved, this project compromises precious natural resources as well as personal experiences. Plus it will serve as a stick in the mind of voters and will resonate within them, which could affect future elections.

The city of Los Angeles and Imperial Beach set resolutions contesting the project - bringing the city count to six. How influential are these civil measures in the grand scheme of things?

Very influential. When you have a city the size of Los Angeles that passes a resolution by unanimous decision to oppose this project, it speaks volumes. Now there are multiple cities in San Diego County behind it, and that speaks volumes. It really sends a message to Sacramento. These cities and their officials are considered to the Governor as power bases for reelection. The message now is that Laguna Beach, Aliso Viejo, Del Mar, Oceanside, and Imperial Beach do not want this project to go through. It's a very risky political decision but should leverage more support from Sacramento. Right now, cities stepping up their voice are one of our best options to see this project succeed.
The TCA is not a Governmental agency. It's a private company trying to build a toll road. They said they've considered other options, but we want all options to be weighed out.
--Matt McClain, Surfrider Foundation

Smart Mobility, a leading consultant of transportation issues and solutions, stated that widening Interstate 5 would be more effective in reducing traffic than the Toll Road. Peter Bekey of KCA Engineers, an expert in the field, concluded after a preliminary study of the I-5 corridor that widening the 5 is completely feasible. How can these summations be put into action?

This brings up an import point. The TCA is not a Governmental agency. It's really surprising to general population that this is not an action carried out by Caltrans. It's a private company trying to build a toll road. They said they've considered other options, but we want all options to be weighed out. And they should if it's in the public's best interest to reduce traffic problems. I mean no one likes traffic. If there are better ways that don't affect natural resources, then these options need to be considered. Now the TCA needs permits from the Department of Transportation, the California Coastal Commission and others agencies. We're hoping that during permit process these factors, along with a flop EIR, hopefully will serve to force the project to reconsider a different alignment or stop it all together.

Thanks to the Surfrider Foundation, Governor Schwarzenegger received over 10,000 emails opposing the 241-extension. What's the Governor's current stance on this issue?

The Governor is definitely aware of the issue. The State put out a statement acknowledging that the Governor was disappointed that all options had not being explored. He recently toured San Mateo Creek campsite with the head of the State Parks, so it's definitely on his radar. And he will keep it on his radar as long as the public continues to get involved. There are Save Trestles stickers up everywhere. People need to be more visible in their stance and then it will be picked up more by the media, which resonates up to Sacramento. Hopefully Schwarzenegger is leaning towards supporting our position. But we need him to come out with a much stronger position.

And the next step for Surfrider is...

...Filing litigation against TCA for the EIR. We're working with South Orange County, Laguna Beach and San Diego chapters to reach more members of community and educate them and get them speaking out. That's the most important thing aside from contacting their local elected official. The fact that we got 10,000 emails through an action alert to the Governor is incredible. We've been doing those for three years and that's double or triple the amount of any initiative we've taken on in the past. It shows peoples passion for this place.

Many concerned surfers and activists are wondering, "What can I do about it?" What are some ways individuals can help?

The thing that Surfrider needs right now is funding for the lawsuits and litigation. We're currently working with our surf industry partners on events and products that support the efforts. We'd rather build stakeholders by having people buy and wear T-shirts and attend a concert, not just get their money. For less than a price of tank of gas you can join Surfrider and support the process. There's power in numbers and every time someone joins Surfrider they are helping their brothers who are fighting out there on the front lines. We also need to keep pressure on the elected officials and keep this campaign visible. Get a stack Save Trestles stickers and pass them out. Shoot, even hang a bed sheet over the freeway that says "Save Trestles."

Thanks Matt.

I know and I'd like to acknowledge Surfline and Surfer, Surfing and Transworld Surf Magazines for their efforts as well. The guys at SIMA have been incredible and it's great to see the industry come together like this proactively to stop a tragedy from happening. I'm confident we can make it happen...this could be the biggest thing the Foundation has ever done.


TOLL ROAD THROUGH TRESTLES APPROVED: (2/24/06) Surfrider and other environmental groups remain optimistic that battle is not over yet

(2/21/06) Act now to save SoCal's best wavezone

(12/15/05) Will Lowers get paved by new 241 extension toll road?
TOLL ROAD THROUGH TRESTLES APPROVED: (2/24/06) Surfrider and other environmental groups remain optimistic that battle is not over yet

(2/21/06) Act now to save SoCal's best wavezone

(12/15/05) Will Lowers get paved by new 241 extension toll road?