Burial site could be threatened by OC toll road extension

San Clemente, California (AP) 8-07

Fearing ancient burial ground could be spoiled, the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians wants the California Coastal Commission to stop a 16-mile extension of the 241 toll road.

The burial site straddling the San Diego and Orange County line abuts the planned Foothill South toll road extension, where Juaneno ancestors lived 4,000 years ago in an ancient Acjachemen Nation village called Panhe. “To Indian people, we go to these places because they’re our Vatican, our Mecca,” said Rebecca Robles, a member of the Juaneno band.

The Juanenos plan to ask coastal commissions in October for a halt to toll road extension plans.

The extension will run from Oso Parkway to Interstate 5 at San Onofre State Beach. The village site is on the state Native American Heritage Commission’s register of sacred sites.

The village is long gone, but the site is frequently used as a gathering area for Native Americans and human remains found in Orange and San Diego counties have been reburied there.

Patricia Martz, an anthropology professor at California State University, Los Angeles, and president of the California Cultural Resource Preservation Alliance, said toll road planners omitted Panhe’s sacred status in its environmental planning documents.

“If you were to compare this road to other projects, it has been the most studied road in the state, if not the nation,” Lance MacLean, a Mission Viejo councilman who chairs the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency that manages the 241 toll road.

The proposed toll road extension “was specifically designed to avoid the densest of archaeological sites” and avoid known or suspected burial areas, added Jennifer Seaton, a spokeswoman for the Irvine-based Transportation Corridor Agencies.