Monday, July 13, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 19

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on November 20th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 38 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 38

State Parks held to more stringent dust mitigation efforts at Oceano Dunes

By Kasey Bubnash

A public workshop was canceled in October after California State Parks failed to complete an adequate work plan for dust mitigation in the Oceano Dunes. Now the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District is cracking down, and about 48 acres of the park are expected to be closed to vehicles by 2020. 

At a lengthy hearing on Nov. 18, the Air Pollution Control District (APCD) hearing board voted 4-1 to approve more stringent changes to the stipulated abatement order under which the dust mitigation process is currently operating. 

The newly approved, modified order includes more specific projects State Parks will have to take on within the coming year to reduce potentially harmful dust emissions in the Ocean Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, according to Karl Tupper, an air quality monitoring specialist who spoke at the meeting. It also includes set deadlines and strategies for moving forward if those target dates aren’t met. 

“It’s designed to hardwire the mitigations for this next year,” Tupper said at the meeting, “and also to shore up and fix the process that broke down this last time.” 

The hearing board was called to convene after the canceled October workshop and State Parks’ failure to complete a work plan for dust mitigation that the APCD and its scientific advisory group would approve. While State Parks did submit two drafts of an annual work plan for 2019—the first on the Aug. 1 deadline—both were rejected by the APCD, and at the hearing on Nov. 18, APCD Officer Gary Willey called the plans “grossly inadequate.” 

The recent changes to the abatement order were made in an attempt to prevent a similar situation from happening in the future. 

Under the modified order, State Parks will be required to close vehicle riding in a 48-acre swath of land near the shoreline by January 1, 2020. The space is currently used for camping and riding, but will soon be home to a restored, vegetated foredune that scientists say will help prevent the spread of dust in the park and neighboring communities. 

State Parks will also have to begin implementing 40 acres of temporary, seasonal dust controls and 4.2 additional acres of permanent dust mitigation efforts by March 15, 2020. 

Although several community members who live in Oceano and on the Nipomo Mesa called for more intense action to reduce dust emissions at the Nov. 18 meeting, APCD board hearing members did not second member Robert Carr’s motion to scrap the proposed modifications and declare the Oceano Dunes a public nuisance, which would give the APCD more direct regulatory power. 

Acting Chair Yarrow Nelson said he’d rather stick with staff’s recommendations. 

“For me personally, I think that this stipulated process is working quite well,” Nelson said. “We hit a hiccup here in the fall when the work plans were not up to the requirements of the scientific advisory group but I think in general the stipulated order process is working pretty well and, with the modifications made here, I think we’re making good progress.” 

Weekly Poll
What'd you make of the county's decision to close beaches for the Fourth of July weekend?

It was sensible since counties to the south closed their beaches.
I was OK with it. I set off fireworks at home instead.
It was ridiculous. The restrictions have to stop.
It didn't matter. I went to SLO County.

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