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Environmentalists sue Orange County toll road agency

A group of environmental organizations sued Orange County's toll road agency this week, alleging that a new proposal to extend one of its highways does not account for a variety of ecological and economic impacts as required by state law.

The Coalition to Save San Onofre alleges that the Transportation Corridor Agencies' plans to build the 5.5-mile Tesoro Extension in south Orange County violate the California Environmental Quality Act, which calls for thorough reviews of project effects and possible mitigation measures.

Coalition members fear that the project may eventually threaten the popular San Onofre State Beach park, where the TCA tried to put through a highway before it was rejected in 2008 by the California Coastal Commission and the federal government.

The group, which filed a lawsuit Wednesday and another Thursday, alleges that the TCA is improperly doing the environmental review in a piecemeal fashion by dividing the 16-mile project into segments, the first being the 5.5-mile section.

"This illegal segment is a desperate attempt to perpetuate a project which is so contrary to the public interest," said Dan Silver, executive director of the Endangered Habitats League.

The coalition includes a variety of local, regional and national conservation groups, including the California Parks Foundation, the Surfrider Foundation, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The TCA is based in Irvine and operates 51 miles of toll roads in Orange County.

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dan.weikel@latimes.com | Twitter: @DanielJosephWei

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