The Transportation Corridor Agency and the Coalition to “Save Trestles” both agree that the California Coastal Commission Hearing on Sept. 22, went well; it’s most likely the only thing the opposing sides on the debate to extend the 241 Toll Road will ever agree on.
Surfrider Foundation Assistant Environmental Director Mark Rauscher and TCA spokesperson Jennefer Seaton both commented that they were pleased by their respective supporters. Both cited mass support from ordinary citizens as well as various elected officials and noted citizens as validation of their respective positions. Each felt strongly that the public’s involvement will eventually lead Commerce Secretary Carlos M.Gutierrez to make the final decision in their favor.
The San Clemente chapter of the Foundation has been the spearhead of the movement to Save Trestles. According to Rauscher, the local volunteers have been the backbone of the anti-extension campaign. Rauscher is nothing less than effusive in his admiration of local citizens for making a difference, and critical critical of certain local elected officials.
“San Clemente City Councilmember Jim Dahl is out of touch with his constituents; the vast majority of residents in San Clemente do not want the toll road in their back yard” Raucher said and continued to say “County Supervisor Pat Bates is not living up to the expectations of the voters; the people in Orange County feel that planning for open space and parks, maintains the quality of life they are interested in.”
Multiple attempts to reach Councilman Dahl and County Supervisor Bates were unsuccessful, their spokespersons stating that Dahl was at a conference and Bates was on vacation.
Rauscher relates that a recent bi-partisan phone poll showed that the “Save Trestles” campaign had a 2:1 favorable rating after participants were informed that the toll road would bisect San Onofre State Park. The survey was commissioned by the California State Parks Foundation and was conducted in mid-August.Seaton was equally effusive about the support in he pro-extension camp. “The TCA is encouraged by support from people like County Supervisor Pat Bates and the City of Tustin’s Mayor and TCA Chairman Jerry Amante, in getting the Toll Road expansion finished” TCA’s Seaton said.
Media outlets estimated that approximately 6000 people attended Monday’s 10-hour hearing at the Del Mar fairgrounds, although Stefanie Sekich, Surfrider Foundation’s “Save Trestles” Campaign Coordinator stated that no exact numbers were available. Surfrider gave away 3000 t-shirts to supporters. Sekich added that, of the approximate 25 people that spoke during the community feedback portion of the hearing, 23 were against the TCA plan and urged the CCC to reject it.
“It’s a waiting game to see what the Secretary of Commerce will say on Jan. 7. Whatever the decision is, I am confident that there will be an appeal from the loosing side and potentially a lawsuit and litigation; from a legal point of view there is no justification for Gutierrez to override the Coastal Commission’s decision made in February; this is an issue of states rights and the federal government should have no say in it” Rausher said.
Seaton, TCA’s spokesperson, refutes the idea that the federal government should have no say in the process. Citing that the CCC hearing and vote in Feb. was for a Coastal Consistency Certification and based on the federal Coastal Zone Mandate Act. Approval on the certification is part of the CCC’s decision process and therefore inherently includes the Federal Government. At that hearing, the vote was 8-2 against continuing with the extension.
Additionally, the US, Fish and Wildlife Agency submit a favorable Biological Opinion which the TCA received in April. Of the roughly 20 certifications, permits and approvals that must be issued for the TCA to continue with the expansion, the TCA has 10 of the needed approvals to date, according to Seaton.