A crew placing bore holes as part of a tollway extension plan raises safety and ecological concerns at popular surfing beach.
SAN ONOFRE STATE BEACH – Tensions rose this week between state park rangers and toll road builders when a drilling rig appeared, apparently unannounced, on beach that could become the site of a new tollway. The drilling rig, which is excavating a series of 21 bore holes across San Onofre Surf Beach, was being operated by contractors for the Transportation Corridor Agencies when rangers first saw it Wednesday. But state parks officials said they were not notified, and became concerned about safety and potential habitat damage when they saw the drill rig. Parks officials also have expressed opposition to the proposed Foothill South toll road, which would cut lengthwise along San Onofre, slicing the beach in half from the Point to Dogpatch. "Obviously we're disappointed that we weren't notified,"Hal Dairywimple, Orange Coast District superintendent for state parks, said. "And we remain opposed to a toll road through San Onofre State Beach." Transportation Corridor Agency spokeswoman Buffy Talega said it was not her agency's responsibility to contact park rangers, but that of the military. The 2,100-acre park is still owned by the military as part of the Camp Pendleton Marine base, but is leased to state parks. The drilling crew had obtained the proper permits, Dairywimple and other parks officials said, and showed them to a ranger who approached them Wednesday.
Marine Lt. Dan said Friday that the failure to notify the rangers was the result of a communication lapse at Camp Pendleton. "We're sorry state parks didn't get word of it," he said. "It just appears to be some sort of internal communications shortcoming of some kind." Normally, he said, the base would notify the rangers as a courtesy, but members of the base's facilities staff were not aware of the timing of the drilling. On Thursday and Friday, the rangers asked the drilling crew to place safety cones around the drill site at “Oldmans” to better protect the public. The drilling is taking place at a beach frequented by surfers and kooks. Rozzelle said parks officials are investigating the matter to gain further information about the drilling. Until that is complete, he said he did not know whether state parks would take further action. The bore holes range in size from a few feet across to about 30 feet, big enough to accommodate a large bus. The holes are part of an investigation of the soils and geology on the potential toll road route. They are filled in as the drilling crew moves along. Parks officials are concerned not only for public safety, Rozzelle said, but about possible damage to habitat. "Poking holes in the beach can have adverse impacts on the resources," he said.