By Eric Heinz

One of South Orange County’s largest treasures, the Trestles surfing area at San Onofre State Park, has been fought over for decades, if not longer.

Since the idea of putting a toll road through Trestles was envisioned in the early and mid-2000s, multiple environmental, recreational and governmental agencies have weighed in on the land, which is currently leased to the California State Parks by the U.S. Department of the Navy until at least 2021.

The plans of The Toll Road administrators, the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA), are to construct a toll road to extend its 241 route and connect to I-5 as well as other traffic relief options in South Orange County. Those proposals include options to build the highway through the middle of San Clemente as well as possible expansions of lanes on I-5.

The meeting allowed members of the public to discuss some of the issues surrounding the area. The two organizations are heavily active in ocean water protection efforts.

In 2016, SSOC entered into a settlement agreement and a protective agreement with the TCA after a 15-year battle to stave off the construction of a toll road through Trestles, a surf area located just south of San Clemente. Following that, the city of San Clemente, as well as residents of The Reserve Maintenance Corporation, an HOA in San Clemente, filed lawsuits against the protective agreement.

The city’s lawsuit was filed in an effort to nullify the protection agreement, which include areas of the San Mateo Campground and lands within the San Onofre State Park, as well as Trestles. In theory, this would give the TCA more options for a toll road rather than the proposals now being studied that include constructing the road through the middle of San Clemente.

The Reserve’s lawsuit seeks to require the TCA to go through a public process that involves more opportunity and outreach to those who could be affected by toll road construction. It also seeks to nullify the protective agreement as well as the settlement agreement.

SSOC members contend that undoing the protective agreement could threaten Trestles.

Neither the city nor The Reserve association wants a toll road through Trestles, either, but they do want to protect the homes currently under duress by the proposed construction.

The TCA is currently reviewing environmental impact documents to finalize a draft environmental impact report, which is slated to be completed and ready for public comment by mid-2019.

According to the settlement agreement, SSOC members are prohibited from commenting on or opposing any toll roads proposed to be built outside of the protective area.

Part of the original settlement agreement was that the SSOC would receive a $28 million fund for mitigation, habitat revitalization and environmental efforts. The projects the fund would be used for must be approved by the 12 nonprofit members of the SSOC as well as California state and federal agencies.

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