Oceano Dunes dust rule still valid, judge rules

March 14, 2016

Oceano Dunes 4


Less than a year after a California appellate court struck down a key provision of the Oceano Dunes dust rule, a San Luis Obispo judge has ruled the rest of the controversial regulation should remain intact.

San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District’s (APCD) dust rule, formally called Rule 1001, requires state parks to reduce the particulate matter blowing from the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area or face fines of $1,000 per day. The rule is based on a contested study that concluded off-road vehicle activity on the dunes has caused an increase in particulate matter blowing to the Nipomo Mesa.

In 2012, off-roading organization Friends of Oceano Dunes sued the APCD, arguing the agency used flawed scientific practices and failed to prove off-road vehicle activity caused an increase in pollution on the Nipomo Mesa. In 2013, San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall ruled against Friends of Oceano Dunes, saying the Oceano off-roading area should be considered a man-made device and as such regulated by the air district’s dust rule.

Last April, the 2nd District Court of Appeal overturned Crandall’s ruling, saying he erroneously ruled that an air pollution control district has the power to regulate emissions from a state park by a permit requirement. As adopted, the dust rule required state parks to obtain a permit from the air district in order to operate the riding area.

The appellate court ruling left uncertainty as to whether the remainder of the dust rule was still valid.

On March 7, Crandall ruled that the removal of the permit requirement does not void the entire dust rule and that the APCD retains the power to enforce the dust rule through civil penalties and other coercive action.

“Given the significant costs and genuine health concerns underlying Rule 1001, this court must be careful not to discard it entirely without having solid reasons to do so,” Crandall wrote. “Requiring new rulemaking under the circumstances present here would be wasteful, unnecessary and inappropriate.”

Friends of the Dunes did not respond to questions about a second appeal.

Last year, the APCD board spent months debating whether to keep the dust rule in place or to negotiate an alternative agreement with state parks. APCD staff and proponents of the dust rule argued the regulation is necessary to protect public health on the Nipomo Mesa.

Opponents insist the science behind the rule is flawed, and they say the air district adopted the regulation as a financial means to cover APCD salaries.

Last June, state geologist Will Harris told the APCD board the dust rule is pointless because natural background levels of dust are actually higher than the current levels. Harris recommended the APCD scrap the dust rule and pursue a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with state parks.

County supervisor and APCD board member, Adam Hill, responded to Harris by saying perhaps someone would talk to his bosses in Sacramento. Supervisor Bruce Gibson followed through on the threat with a letter to the state’s chief geologist.

The California Geological Survey then demoted Harris.

The APCD and San Luis Obispo County have faced several lawsuits pertaining to the dust rule and regulation of the off-road riding area. It has already cost the district alone more than $1 million to fight the lawsuits.



  1. bje227 says:

    Absolutely Ridiculous!!!!
    If anything, the tax paying citizens that have been recreationally using the Oceano Dunes for over a hundred years should be the ones complaining. This beach had motorized vehicle traffic long before these geniuses decided to build “fancy” retirement communities right behind the dunes.

    1. Did the Oceano Dunes have recreational vehicle use at the time you purchased your home? Of course it did.
    2. Did you actually buy your home without knowing where it was located?
    Of course not.
    To knowingly purchase a home in an area with “unsatisfactory air quality” and then whine for years, in an attempt to change the entire region to better suit your current needs. RIDICULOUS!!!!!!
    You can either live in the home you purchased “in the dunes” -OR- sell the damn thing and move someplace you like. Changing the world to compensate for your lack of common sense is completely insane, and should not be taken seriously by anyone, regardless of how much money is dangled in front of the greedy buerocrats.

    (1) 15 Total Votes - 8 up - 7 down
  2. CentralcoastRN says:

    Ok. I am still beyond baffled.

    First of all, the wind blows. There is sand on the Oceano dunes, yes. BUT, there is also sand all OVER the MESA, all over the place in general. How do we know that the particulate flying around sand is caused by vehicles knocking it around and NOT by over development????? Hmmmmmmmm?????? I am just asking. Also, is it just me, or like, are we totally forgetting that there is a Conoco Phillips refinery up there, and has been for how long now?????

    It’s like retired people moved here to drive around IN SAND ON THEIR GOLF CARTS, oblivious to the fact that this community has tourism has one of the only “private industry” employers all around. Who on earth is going to come to Pismo/Grover/Oceano if they cannot drive/play camp on the beach? Maybe for a day trip, but Ventura is just as close for Bakersfield folks and there are other options for Fresno folks.

    I am NOT saying I don’t care about people not being able to breathe is sand in the air is a REAL PROBLEM. I am saying that it would be nice to have a study from a truly unbiased source say, “yes, the sand blowing around is indeed from the vehicles and NOT from the other multiple afore mentioned possibilities as evidenced by ____________ data.” Does that make sense?

    Why do people make knee jerk decisions that effect the lives and livelihoods of so many people without really thinking about the COST???? It is so frustrating.

    (3) 23 Total Votes - 13 up - 10 down
    • Kevin Rice says:

      There is such a study. It’s from the United States Geological Survey, “National Assessment of Shoreline Change Part 3: Historical Shoreline Change and Associated Coastal Land Loss Along Sandy Shorelines of the California Coast.” (http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2006/1219/). The report states 500 million pounds of sand blow onshore every year at our coastal dunes.

      Dune buggies go where the sand is, not the other way around.

      “But in the earlier times, before many trees were planted, the wind blew as only wind can blow in large open space, and drifted the sand over everything. Not even a geranium could live without protection,” wrote Mrs. T.A. Allot of Santa Maria in 1912.

      (1) 7 Total Votes - 4 up - 3 down
  3. ODX says:

    You have to say one thing. You can’t confuse these people. The facts and the law don’t matter to them. Their minds are already made up. When you have like minded brainless judges in your pocket why worry about doing what is right.

    It really falls back on us that we don’t vote these clowns out of office. Until we stand up to this corruption and say enough is enough we are going to continue to be dragged through the mud. Stand up for what is right. Figure out who the bad apples are and vote them out of office. Take the time and effort to support people who will do the right thing.

    (11) 27 Total Votes - 19 up - 8 down
  4. shelworth says:

    This issue has always cracked me up, do the “Dust Scientists” not know how dunes are made in the first place?

    (4) 28 Total Votes - 16 up - 12 down
  5. Old Salt says:

    Back in the good-ol-days we could drive on the Estero Bay Beach north of Morro Rock.
    Also, on the Morro Bay Peninsula accessed from Los Osos.
    It was all closed off to vehicles and dogs off lease due to the Western Snowy plover and Kangaroo rats…
    Once driving on the beach is gone, it’s gone forever.

    (22) 44 Total Votes - 33 up - 11 down
    • hijinks says:

      Can’t you just walk on the beach?

      (-13) 69 Total Votes - 28 up - 41 down
      • unlisted says:

        Are you crazy? Californian’s don’t walk anywhere!

        (6) 20 Total Votes - 13 up - 7 down
      • Andy P says:

        About 99.9 % of all California accessible beaches are beaches that require you to walk to them. This is the only beach in California that I am aware of where you can drive on the beach. My question to you is; Cant you just leave this one alone? When i first moved to Oceano in 1986 no one was complaining about the air quality because hardly anyone lived on the Mesa. They bought and built in that area full well knowing what they were getting into. There was a time when the recreation area was much larger but the environmentalists got it reduced to the current size of 5-1/2 miles. If you want to walk to the beach, then go walk on them. There are 100 or more beaches you could visit with out any recreation vehicles on them. If you want to walk on this beach you are going to have to share it.

        (6) 20 Total Votes - 13 up - 7 down
      • Kevin Rice says:

        995 miles of beach to walk on, 5 miles you can drive or walk on. Quit complaining.

        (0) 38 Total Votes - 19 up - 19 down
  6. Jorge Estrada says:

    The APCD should go after the County for not maintaining their roads which has a much greater environmental impact and is not a trivial recreation concern. There are bigger local pockets to tap and public benefits to be reaped.

    (25) 47 Total Votes - 36 up - 11 down
  7. easymoney says:

    Bingo, we are not only subsidizing the developers, but the county as well.
    APCD is nothing but a shill for the county and it’s huge need to gather funds. Can’t control spending, simply find a crisis and charge a fee/tax for it….

    (35) 61 Total Votes - 48 up - 13 down
  8. SLO_Johnny says:

    If you live next to sand dunes the area is dusty, WHO KNEW? This isn’t about people’s health, it’s about property values. The rest of us are subsidizing a few property owners who want the beach to themselves; we pay to fight their lawsuits. They will get the financial benefits and we get the bills. The local air quality district can’t fine the state. Nothing has changed on the dunes. The same conditions have existed for years. The true goal is to throw the off road vehicles off of the beach so that other people can use it instead. The beaches of California belong to everyone and this is the very last rec area left. That has magnified the problem. The state should reopen a couple areas to reduce use in Oceano.

    (49) 91 Total Votes - 70 up - 21 down

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