Judgment Day for one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers
Make or Break at San Mateo CreekFebruary 4th, 2008
Garrett Russo, American Rivers, (202) 423-9494
Washington, DC —The San Mateo Creek, which was named by American Rivers as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers™ in 2007, could learn its fate this week. On Wednesday, the California Coastal Commission is set to decide whether a proposed toll road complies with existing state laws. Thousands of people are expected to attend a public meeting Wednesday to urge the commissioners not to support the road.
“The choice for Californians is clear: do you want a beautiful creek, a spectacular state park, and a world class surfing break, or do you want to pave it all over and have a new place to get stuck in traffic?” said Rebecca Wodder, President of American Rivers.
The California Transportation Corridor Agencies’ plan to build the Foothill Transportation Corridor South (FTC-South) has generated such community outrage that the Coastal Commission has been forced to move Wednesday’s meeting from the usual meeting spot at Oceanside City Hall, which can seat only 160 people, to the Del Mar Fairgrounds, which can accommodate 3,000. Published reports indicate the biggest crowd a commission meeting has ever drawn was 500. Anyone who decides to testify will be given two minutes to speak. Meaning, if all 3,000 people raise their voice, the meeting could last 4 days, without a break.
“Once this meeting starts, commissioners had better get comfortable, they won’t be going anywhere for a while,” added Wodder. “But just hearing the concerns of the people isn’t enough. They need to act on them and place the plans of this disastrous project where they belong, in the trash can.”
The San Mateo Creek is one of the last remaining free flowing streams in all of Southern California. Its waters are home to an ecological wonderland of fish and other wildlife, some of which are nearly extinct. The sand and cobbles washed down by the creek also feed Trestles Beach, known around the world as the “Yosemite of Surfing” for its clear water and perfect waves.
Trestles Beach remains the only stop in the continental United States for the Association of Surfing Professional’s World Championship Tour. Environmentalists and surfers are concerned that the toll road will result in a reduction of sand and sediment to the beach and surf zone, possibly affecting the quality of the waves. In a 2000 report commissioned by the TCA, their engineer concluded that the highway project and subsequent development may cause “significant impacts to the surfing resources.”
If allowed, the effects of the project would impact more than surfers. The surfing and other recreational resources at San Onofre generate millions of dollars for the local economy. The irreversible changes also will destroy the creek bottom habitats and other natural systems that support the biological diversity found there.
“The San Mateo Creek and Trestles help power several thriving communities. Both places deserve better than to be buried under several million pounds of concrete,” concluded Wodder.