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By Eric Heinz

There are many reasons Trestles is vigorously coveted. Some of the world’s most consistent waves break along its shores. San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) could use Trestles’ bluffs as storage for 1,600 tons of nuclear waste within the next few years. The U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton see it as a strategic buffer and training area.

But Trestles has been an oft-sought refuge for surfers since the end of World War II when Camp Pendleton was established.  Surfers were not permitted to cross the fence that kept them from Lowers and Church, and the proximity to then-President Richard Nixon’s getaway destination didn’t make access any easier. That changed in 1971 when an agreement between the U.S. Navy and California State Parks was struck to turn the area into a public recreation area.

A view of SONGS from Upper Trestles. Photo: Andrea Swayne
A view of SONGS from Upper Trestles. Photo: Andrea Swayne


Anxiety sets in for many beachgoers when the topic of interim stored nuclear waste comes up. Currently, SONGS operators Southern California Edison and its minor stakeholders are permitted to store tons of spent nuclear fuel rods from the shuttered nuclear plant that was left over from when the plant was in operation.
Opponents to this process claim this part of the decommissioning process will put not just Trestles—where the plant is located—but the rest of the area in harm’s way if a disaster were to occur.

The stored fuel is expected to be placed in permanent storage in the next 10 years, unless the federal government comes to a resolution to put it somewhere else.

As SONGS was decommissioning, the federal government prohibited any fuel to be stored at the Yucca Mountain Facility in Nevada; therefore, the fuel did not have a permanent home, and temporary storage off-site is not permitted by federal law.

Congressman Darrell Issa, who represents San Clemente down to Vista, has tried to pass a bill that would amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to allow for temporary sites, but no such amendment came to pass.

The latest amendment to the law moved a similar bill to the House floor, but it has yet to be discussed.

A lawsuit between watchdog group Citizens’ Oversight Projects and California Coastal Commission ended on Aug. 28, as Southern California Edison and the group forged a settlement agreement that will require SONGS operators to monitor spent fuel stored onsite as well as search for more alternative locations to store the fuel—even though that will ultimately be the responsibility of the federal government.

For more information and updates on this issue, visit

Toll road agreement makes some people nervous

Following a settlement agreement between the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) and the Save San Onofre Coalition and other environmental groups in November 2016, the city of San Clemente challenged the legality of the agreement with a lawsuit.

The settlement agreement came after a 10-year lawsuit that aimed to prevent a toll road from ever being built through the famed surf spot as well as other locations within an environmental avoidance area. But the TCA has comprised several new proposals that would go through the city of San Clemente. 
The toll roads have been an issue for advocates of Trestles and San Onofre State Park for years. In 2013, San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board rejected the proposals to construct a toll road through the area, which stopped the threat of the infrastructure at the time.

The city is currently arguing in Orange County Superior Court that the agreement was not done in transparent light and that the actions could be a violation of California’s open meetings laws. The TCA Joint Board recently issued a statement that it intends to fight this action.

The public will have an opportunity to provide comments during the environmental review process, as is required by law under the California Environmental Quality Act.  
Groups such as the Surfrider Foundation have taken exception to these actions because they argue undoing the settlement agreement would put Trestles at risk once again of being affected by a potential toll road.

“By filing a lawsuit, the City is effectively saying they want a road to go through the park,” Surfrider Foundation stated on its website blog in June. “The SSOC is not making that assumption flippantly. In addition to wanting to undo our protective lawsuit, city councilmembers said at a March 21 council meeting that they ‘want an arterial that connects La Pata to Cristianitos’—that, my friends, is secret code for ‘build a road through the park.’”
What’s important to keep in mind is that no proposals have been selected for the formal environmental impact report at this time.

The TCA is currently studying potential environmental impacts in its draft report, which is expected to be published at the end of the year. By 2018, the TCA expects to begin scoping studies for the review, with a decision coming in 2021 and construction starting soon after that.

Opponents argue based on reports compiled between 2002 and 2006 that the TCA has already made up its mind and will try to put the toll road straight through San Clemente, if a better solution does not present itself first.

Lease agreement

The clock is ticking on the lease agreement to keep San Onofre State Beach a park, which will eventually be negotiated between the U.S. Navy and California State Parks. The Navy owns the land on which San Onofre State Park sits, but in 1971 an agreement to turn the land into a park was forged. The Navy charged State Parks $1 for the 50-year rent. That lease agreement ends in less than four years.
State Parks submitted a letter indicating its “formal interest” to extend that lease, which was signed by the director, in 2016 to the Marine Corps. In an email, State Parks representatives said the department plans to use the four years remaining before the expiration of the lease “productively and hopes to reach an agreement during that time,” according to an email from Camp Pendleton public affairs.

“While the (Director of Parks and Recreation) has met with USMC Base Commanders and meets with their staff on a regular basis, an agreement of this magnitude will take time to negotiate and finalize,” an emailed statement from State Parks read. “An announcement on the final outcome is not anticipated until at or near the end of the current lease in 2021.”

The land at Trestles allows for Marine units to conduct training for amphibious operations, ranging in size from a reconnaissance element to a Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

“Since (the 1971 agreement), numerous state and federal statutes and regulations have been created,” an email from Camp Pendleton officials stated. “Although it is federal land, the Marine Corps abides by state statutes and regulations in the environmental management of all installations in the State of California.

“The State Parks Director has requested renewal of the lease,” the email continued. “That official request begins the lengthy and rather complicated process of lease renewal. Since there are many steps in this process, it is not possible to say with certainty when an agreement might be reached.”

Pendleton officials said that it is too early to disclose the details of the communication it has had with the State Parks.

“As we have in the past, we will work diligently to ensure the interests of the Marine Corps and the interests of the State of California are appropriately considered while we work toward an agreements,” the email stated.

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comments (1)

  • SAN clemente Residents Reply

    “By filing a lawsuit, the City is effectively saying they want a road to go through the park,” Surfrider Foundation stated on its website blog in June. “The SSOC is not making that assumption flippantly.”

    Could easily read instead
    “By signing the agreement with TCA, SSOC is effectively saying they want a road to go straight through San Clemente. The residents of San Clemente is not making that assumption flippantly.

    Ser how that works equally as well.

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