SACRAMENTO — Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath's bill to enshrine in state law a settlement agreement protecting San Onofre State Beach from infrastructure development passed the Senate Natural Resources and Water committee on a 6-1 vote.
AB 1426 prohibits any transportation agency or government entity from authorizing, funding, or constructing any new infrastructure that encroaches on the land currently protected by a combination of San Onofre State Beach and the Richard H. and Donna O’Neill Conservancy.
The main threat to the park in recent years has come from a proposal put forth to build a multi-lane extension from the Foothill south toll road to Highway 5. The project would have bisected the protected coastal land and tainted the watershed for the creek flowing into the ocean at the world-renowned surf spot, Trestles Beach. A settlement reached in 2016 between the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA), the Save San Onofre Coalition, and the State has prevented road construction to date, but lawsuits filed since the settlement have threatened to undermine the agreement.
“For years now, the Coalition’s efforts have successfully prevented damage to this last-of-its-kind coastal watershed habitat while ensuring access for more than 2.5 million annual visitors to enjoy this iconic beach and upland areas.” said Assemblymember Boerner Horvath. “AB 1426 makes certain the settlement agreement is implemented as intended and protects one of the five most visited parks in the whole system for future generations of campers, birders, hikers, fishermen, and surfers.”
The Save San Onofre Coalition consists of 12 state and national environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, the NRDC, and the Surfrider Foundation, among others. In the fifteen years since a toll road project was first proposed, the grassroots “Save Trestles” campaign to preserve this stretch of coastline grew from a couple of people at a State Parks and Recreation Hearing to what is now the largest public turnout in the history of the California Coastal Commission.
“Assemblymember Boerner Horvath’s legislation is one of the most important conservation bills of the year,” said Rachel Norton, Executive Director of the California State Parks Foundation, the bill’s sponsor. “It provides permanent protection for San Onofre State Beach and key wildlife areas. This assures the public will have access to affordable campsites at the state park and can continue enjoying this beautiful coastal landscape.”
AB 1426 enjoys broad support from more than twenty different environmental and community-based organizations. It is set to be next heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee.