Surfers Create Waves of Their Own Saving San Onofre State Beach
Surfers and their waves are like mother bears with their cubs. If anything gets in between them, they get very angry.
On Sept. 23, 6,000 people crowded into a hall at the Del Mar Fairgrounds to discuss the extension of Highway 241. Three representatives of the U.S Department of Commerce heard arguments from a rowdy crowd of environmental activists, surfers and proponents for the road. "Please keep the yelling down so we can hear the speakers," Jane Luxton, general counsel for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said, said according to the Los Angeles Times.
The extension of 241 probably wouldn't be so contested if the world famous Trestles surf spot wasn't threatened. Out of the laundry list of complaints, this is the touchiest. The Surfrider Foundation and the Transportation Corridor Authority, the government agency that wants to build the road, both have paid scientists to study the proposed toll road's environmental effects.
It's clear that each organization spun the data to support their claims. "We had professional engineers look at things that [the TCA] didn't," Mark Rauscher, assistant environmental director for the Surfrider Foundation, said. The Surfrider Foundation claims that the road will modify sediment flows. This will adversely affect the waves and water quality, Rauscher said.
On the other hand, the TCA has funded their own studies and found completely different results. "No Change to the amount of sediment and no change to the surf break," TCA Spokesperson Jennifer Seaton said.
The list of conflicting research and spin continues. Both organizations interpreted the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service's biological opinion differently. "The road will not jeopardize the existence of any endangered species," Seaton said. This really means that the road won't drive any specie to extinction, but could severely decrease population numbers. The road has, "Major impacts towards multiple species," Rauscher said. "[We] want further analysis."
Building the road in this particular spot seems unfit based upon the potential environmental damage it could cause. Even though the environmental conclusions conflict, it's not worth risking Southern California's best surf spot and a dozen endangered species for a road. On top of this, the toll road would cut right through a state park. "It's simply unheard of to build a six lane highway in the middle of a state park," Rauscher said.
Supporters of the toll road say that it will relieve congestion on the I-5. This is fair, no one likes sitting in traffic. However, the toll road probably won't take many cars off the I-5. Not many people can afford a projected $12 round trip fee on top of rising gas prices.
Even if people started using the toll road, it's a backwards way of relieving traffic. The extension of highway 241 has been on Orange County's master plan since 1981. People view the effect that transportation has on the environment differently than 27 years ago. More roads will encourage more cars, urban sprawl and greenhouse gasses. Instead of quarreling over this road, lawmakers should see that this plan is very dated and eliminate from further deliberation. It's common knowledge that public transportation elevates traffic and is more environmentally sound. A light rail system is long overdue in Southern California.
If the toll road is cleared for construction, bonds purchased on Wall Street will finance it, Seaton said. Even if the toll road could be built, it's doubtful that the TCA could sell $1.3 billion worth of bonds to finance the road. On the other hand, investors would finance a light rail system if it were comprehensive enough for people to use it.
The proposed toll road is a fossil from 1981. It's reminding Southern Californians how they regarded the environment and transportation from a time before global warming "existed."