A coalition of environmental organizations today filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court in San Diego County against the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) for violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). On February 23, 2006, the TCA certified the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Report and selected a route that would build a toll road directly through California's fifth most popular state park, San Onofre State Beach, devastating it and other recreation and conservation lands. The lawsuit charges that the TCA failed to adequately analyze the environmental impacts of the proposed toll road, did not provide adequate mitigation for those impacts, and ignored feasible alternatives to the toll road. These deficiencies represent significant violations of CEQA.
"The TCA has grossly underestimated the impacts that this toll road would have on San Onofre State Beach. It undermined the public process by failing to explore alternatives that would avoid the State Beach entirely and would provide traffic benefits equal or greater than the toll road," said William White of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP, the lead attorney for the coalition.
Mr. White is joined by a legal team that includes, Joel Reynolds and James Birkelund, attorneys for the Natural Resources Defense Counsel; Michael Fitts, staff attorney for the Endangered Habitats League and Elizabeth Lake and Amanda Monchamp from Holland + Knight, LLP.
"Bulldozing a toll road through San Onofre State Beach makes no environmental, economic or legal sense," said Joel Reynolds, senior attorney, National Resources Defense Council. "We designate state parks to protect them, not to warehouse them for future development."
"This is an unprecedented taking of State Park land that would destroy a unique resource and undermine affordable access to the coastline. It would be precedent-setting for development projects across the State. No part of the State Parks System would be safe in the future if the TCA is allowed to build this toll road through San Onofre State Beach," said Elizabeth Lake, attorney for Holland + Knight, LLP and a board member of the California State Parks Foundation.
“I firmly believe one of the greatest legacies we can leave to future generations is the heritage of our land, but unless we can preserve and protect the unspoiled areas which God has given us, we will have nothing to leave them. This expanse of acreage, San Onofre Bluffs State Beach, now has its future guaranteed as an official state park.” — Governor Ronald Reagan, during San Onofre State Park Dedication
"We are pleased to see the Attorney General also is filing a complaint on behalf of the people of the state of California," commented Elizabeth Goldstein, president, California State Parks Foundation. "A recent poll of California voters across the political spectrum showed that 73% opposed the toll road cutting through San Onofre."
TCA is a joint powers agency comprised entirely of local governments within Orange County. The proposed toll road alignment would destroy San Onofre State Beach, which is located in San Diego County. San Onofre State Beach, which is currently enjoyed by 2.5 million people a year, is the fifth most heavily used park in the California State Parks System. The toll road would force the closure of the majority of the park, destroy its most popular campground, pollute its world-class surfing beaches and degrade habitat for 11 endangered or threatened species.
The park was established for the citizens of California by then Governor Ronald Reagan and then President Richard Nixon. At the dedication of the park, Governor Reagan said "I firmly believe one of the greatest legacies we can leave to future generations is the heritage of our land, but unless we can preserve and protect the unspoiled areas which God has given us, we will have nothing to leave them. This expanse of acreage, San Onofre Bluffs State Beach, now has its future guaranteed as an official state park."
The coalition includes the California State Parks Foundation, the Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sea and Sage Audubon Society, Laguna Greenbelt Inc., and the Endangered Habitats League.
About California State Parks Foundation
The California State Parks Foundation is the only statewide organization dedicated to protecting, enhancing and advocating for California's 278 State Parks. Since its inception in 1969, the Foundation has raised more than $120 million in land, funds and artifacts for State Parks. The Foundation's support comes from its 75,000 members, corporate partners and foundations. For more information, please contact the California State Parks Foundation at 415-258-9975 or visit www.calparks.org.
About the Natural Resources Defense Council
The Natural Resources Defense Council (www.nrdc.org) is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 1.2 million members and e-activists nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
About the Surfrider Foundation
The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over 50,000 members and 64 chapters across the United States and Puerto Rico, with international affiliates in Australia, Europe, Japan and Brazil.