Here is an update on the proposed Toll Road project from student attorney Morgan Embleton.
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When most people think “legal,” they immediately think courtroom. But participating in public hearings is one of the many tools that San Diego Coastkeeper uses to advocate for clean beaches, clean water, and sustainable water use. Just this summer alone, Coastkeeper has attended several public hearings at the Port of San Diego, the San Diego Planning Commission, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Board – and we plan to attend a few San Diego City Council meetings later this summer. At these hearings, Coastkeeper has addressed climate change, air quality, water quality, vernal pools, San Diego fairy shrimp, protection of coastal resources, and cleanup of San Diego Bay at the shipyard sites.
During the majority of these hearings, Coastkeeper representatives address the decision makers during the public comment period, which means we have three minutes to voice our concerns and present solutions. But sometimes we attend public hearings to show support for issues championed by our fellow environmental advocates. It is very important to collaborate with organizations that have similar concerns about a particular issue or a project. It would be impossible for one organization to attend hearings related to every environmental issue in the region.
For instance, members of Coastkeeper’s legal team attended a Regional Water Quality Control Board public hearing to show our support for Surfrider and to Save Trestles! At the hearing, Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) asked the Board to approve their plan to build a segment of the SR-241 toll road that would undoubtedly have turned into a larger toll road, extending all the way to Trestles and San Onofre State Beach. But hundreds of supporters turned out to show the Board that Southern Californians don’t support a new toll road that threatens our watersheds, Trestles, and San Onofre State Beach! That participation paid off when the Board denied the permits necessary to build the toll road extension.
Sometimes it takes more than just the facts to show decision makers how the public feels – it requires interested citizens and organizations to come and show support by taking up space in the hearing room. Can’t get off work to attend a public hearing? Don’t worry, there are other ways to participate that do not require attendance. Interested members of the public can submit written comments to voice their support of or opposition to a project. Coastkeeper will also keep participating in as many hearings as possible to continue protecting and restoring fishable, swimmable, and drinkable waters in San Diego County.