Surf’s Up for Debate as I-5 Proposal Could Impact Orange County Waves

Sat December 24, 2005 - West Edition
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SAN CLEMENTE, CA (AP) An agency planning to build a network of toll roads in traffic-plagued Orange County has picked its preferred route for a 16-mi. stretch of highway — through a state park and parallel to a creek that drains into one of the nation’s top surf spots.

The Transportation Corridor Agencies said the preferred route would reduce congested segments of Interstate 5 by 70 percent without moving homes or businesses. The plan also will have little impact on sensitive plant and animal species, the agency said.

Surfers and environmentalists have rallied for months against the project, which they say will destroy Trestles, a legendary wave break that surfers call the “Yosemite of Surfing.”

Opponents said putting the road along the San Mateo Creek watershed will ruin Trestles by blocking sediment flows that make the surf breaks there world class.

Aware of surfers’ concerns, the agency had commissioned two independent studies of sediment flow and determined that the wave breaks at Trestles were caused by big boulders and cobbles — not sediment from San Mateo Creek, said spokeswoman Clare Climaco.

“It would have virtually no impact on sediment flow or wave breaks,” she said.

The road would cut through San Onofre State Park in Southern California and join the interstate within yards of the last open-space camping site along a 200-mi. stretch of coast ending at the Mexican border.

“We’re terribly disappointed with their choice. That’s the one that we said would just destroy the park,” said Roy Stearns, spokesman of the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

The proposal now goes before the agency’s board of directors, which will vote on it Jan. 12. The agency then must secure a number of federal permits and a permit from the state Coastal Commission, which has expressed reservations about the road, said Brittany McKee, spokeswoman of the Sierra Club.

Construction could begin as early as 2007, with the road opening by 2010, Climaco said.