Friends of Oceano Dunes sues the Coastal Commission

April 14, 2016

Oceano Dunes 4


An off-roading organization that is attempting to overturn the Oceano Dunes dust rule has sued the California Coastal Commission over the agency’s role in implementing the controversial regulation. The lawsuit also names California state parks as a co-defendant and the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) as a party of interest.

The dust rule 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.

Last week, Friends of Oceano Dunes filed suit in San Luis Obispo Superior Court, alleging the Coastal commission illegally issued emergency coastal development permits to state parks for dust control projects. Friends previously sued the APCD over the dust rule, and a multi-year court battle over the regulation remains unsettled.

In order to comply with with the dust rule, state parks workers placed plastic fencing in the dunes. The fence spans about 40 acres, according to Friends’ lawsuit. It is intended to mitigate dust levels.

State parks has also placed monitoring equipment, solar panels, toxic batteries and station amenities in the dunes, according to the lawsuit.

The suit states the Coastal Commission waived its standard environmental review requirements and issued emergency permits to state parks so the agency could enact the dust control measures. The Coastal Commission has issued a series of annual emergency permits since 2013.

Friends argues no emergency exists, and state parks must complete the regular coastal development process, which includes an environmental impact report. The plaintiff also argues dust control activities could impact the sensitive coastal dune habitat.

The off-roading organization is demanding the court put a halt to dust monitoring measures until state parks complete the environmental review process and the Coastal Commission issues a regular permit. Friend is also asking the court to remove all dust monitoring equipment and open off-roading areas that have been closed for dust control purposes.

Friends is likewise requesting reimbursement for its legal costs.

A separate lawsuit Friends filed has led to a court invalidating part of the dust rule. In 2012, Friends sued the APCD, arguing the agency used flawed scientific practices and failed to prove off-road activity caused an increase in pollution on the Nipomo Mesa.

Last year, the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that an air pollution control district does not have the power to regulate emissions from a state park by a permit requirement. The ruling nullified a section of the dust rule that required state parks to obtain a permit from the air district in order to operate the riding area.

In March, San Luis Obispo Judge Charles Crandall ruled the removal of the permit requirement does not void the entire dust rule and the APCD retains the power to enforce the regulation through civil penalties and other coercive action. Friends may appeal Crandall’s ruling.

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 APCD alone more than $1 million to fight the lawsuits.



  1. mary margaret says:

    Yes, but just like buying an “expert testimony” in a courtroom to suit your argument these faux-“friends” know that they simply have to hire a company to write an EIR that backs up their claim. They will simply take the money and write whatever the client desires.

    (6) 14 Total Votes - 10 up - 4 down
    • Kevin Rice says:

      Ridiculous. Any EIR must be completed by the government, and is reviewed through process—but it sounds like you just want to ramrod projects that destroy the natural dunes to suit your unscientific political views.

      Personally, I don’t want miles of orange fencing destroying views and recreation and trying to kill off the natural forces of awesome dune construction.

      The true problem is the board of Supervisors should never have built houses where they did. It was previously zoned ag and industrial. They knew there was a lot of natural dust there in the nineties. They shouldn’t have built homes for old people downwind of nature.

      Now that they built, it didn’t give them a right to destroy nature.

      (3) 23 Total Votes - 13 up - 10 down
      • Boomer5 says:

        When are they going to do a comparison EIR in Morro Bay and Los Osos pertaining to the sand spit that has vegetation and no traffic but you can see the dust and sand coming off into the bay and finding it in our homes? Have you ever noticed how clean Morro Rock is after a rain storm and the “white stuff: is washed off into the bay and parking lot?

        (-2) 2 Total Votes - 0 up - 2 down
        • Kevin Rice says:

          I thought that was bird poop.

          They should be looking at what the natural vegetation was before man planted thousands of acres of invasives. Instead, they want to plant more vegetation without any regard for what is natural. That harms the natural condition, and especially the snowy plover which requires open sand to breed. An EIR is necessary.

          (2) 8 Total Votes - 5 up - 3 down
  2. Perspicacious says:

    Kevin, not worth your energy arguing with these folks. Just like human-caused global warming has NEVER been proven, human caused dust from the dunes blowing up to the mesa has NEVER been proven either. That doesn’t matter to these extremists. Control of the population is goal 1 and to hell with provable facts! Oh, and if you are a human-caused climate change denier you are going to be prosecuted.

    (4) 4 Total Votes - 4 up - 0 down
  3. winedude says:

    The name (“Friends(?) of Oceano Dunes”) of this organization has always been a mystery to me. If people were truly “friends” of the dunes, they wouldn’t want to go tearing through them in their (mostly) destructive, dust raising devices. I see no inherent right to drive a vehicle on sand dunes, be it at Oceano nor anywhere else. And peddling economic fear is equally absurd. It reminds me of all the hand wringing on the Monterey peninsula when the first discussion of closing Fort Ord occurred. Monterey, Marina and Seaside have all managed to weather the closing of Ft. Ord rather successfully. My guess is that Oceano, Pismo would recover rather nicely without all the Crackers in town…

    (0) 6 Total Votes - 3 up - 3 down
  4. pasodowny says:

    A lie told often enough…

    (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
  5. pirsquared says:

    I grew up in the south county and have lived on the Nipomo Mesa for the past thirty years. When I was younger, I probably contributed to the dust issue by riding motorcycles in the dunes.
    Over the years I’ve come to realizeI that this dust issue needs to be addressed. Of course the dust has been blowing off the dunes for millennia—but humans are exacerbating the situation and contributing to the ill health of residents with off-road vehicles and unpaved roads on the Mesa.
    The wind is at its worst in March and April. Instead of a complete shutdown of the dunes( which could wreak havoc on the economy of Oceano, Pismo, and Grover Beach) how about a more common sense approach like a shut- down of the dunes during those months — or access limited to mornings when winds are calmer?

    (3) 39 Total Votes - 21 up - 18 down
    • Kevin Rice says:

      How are humans exacerbating the situation? The initial APCD study showed NO RELATION between high visitor attendance and blowing dust (which is natural, and is how the dunes exist in the first place.) The second APCD study showed vehicles don’t directly contribute, and the APCD has never proven anything further as to an indirect causation. The ONLY thing the APCD proved is dust blows near naturally formed sand dunes. Everything else is speculation and political posturing.

      (1) 43 Total Votes - 22 up - 21 down
      • tomjones says:

        The notion that vehicles don’t kick up more dust is comical….you ever watch a car roll down a dusty road???

        (9) 39 Total Votes - 24 up - 15 down
        • Kevin Rice says:

          Of course vehicles kick up sand! No one said otherwise. But we’re talking about dust, not sand. Sand measures 62.5 microns or greater in size. The soil at the dunes is a mere fraction of one percent dust. This is because the natural winds winnow out the fines–sending them aloft over Nipomo–the moment the ocean deposits new sediments on the shore. A portion of the sediments are entertained by the winds directly from the crashing waves, not even reaching land. 1,000 pounds of new sediments arrive each and every minute of the year.

          So, if you believe vehicles are even remotely competing with these awesome natural forces, you’re simply living in your own stubborn and uninformed mindset. Even APCD admits dust kicked up by vehicles is miniscule. That’s why APCD had to fabricate the false notion that a dune “crust” exists—because they couldn’t show a strong causation from vehicle use.

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

        Kevin, because natural dunes would have vegetation on them that helps hold the soil. Vehicles kill that vegetation and keep the soil stirred up, ready to blow away. Simple botany + physics.

        (13) 29 Total Votes - 21 up - 8 down
        • Kevin Rice says:

          Wrong. The natural blowing sand inundates the vegetation, creating the open sand sheets enjoyed by millions. 1,000 pounds of sand blue onshore EVERY MINUTE on our south coast. Your “simple biology+physics” is ignorant of the geology and Aeolian forces at work that vehicles can’t hold a candle to.

          (-7) 23 Total Votes - 8 up - 15 down
      • pirsquared says:

        When I was in high school back in the late 60’s, Oso Flaco was open to vehicular traffic and off-road vehicles pretty much tore up and denuded the entire area. That changed when those vehicles were denied access and native plants and grasses were able to be reestablished and help protect mesa residents from excessive blowing dust.

        Take a look at the area using Google satellite maps or hike out to the beach at Oso Flaco—it’s pretty obvious that the vehicular side of the fence is pretty well absent of much protective cover. The protected side has much less of a problem with blowing sand and dust. That damage on the unprotected side may be categorized by some as “indirect”—but it is nonetheless real and negatively affecting the health of mesa residents.

        (11) 25 Total Votes - 18 up - 7 down
        • Kevin Rice says:

          It would probably shock you to know: (1) The vegetation presently around Oso Flaco was artificially planted to protect the lake from being inundated by naturally blessing sand; (2) There are hundreds more acres of vegetation now than 80 years ago (as proven by aerial imagery); (3) What you think is native grades is, in significant part, invasive veldy and ammophilla arenaria planted by man to stop naturally b blowing sand; (4) Invasive plant species are by far the greatest threat to the native dune ecosystem.

          Your armchair observations are lacking much fact. Your beliefs are akin to seeing train and thinking rain causes clouds. It’s the other way around. But you have to study the facts to overcome misheld beliefs.

          (-5) 21 Total Votes - 8 up - 13 down
    • CentralcoastRN says:

      How do we know over development, cutting down trees that served as a windbreak, the ConocoPhillips plant, the plentiful golf carts and Hwy 1 on the Mesa isn’t a problem?

      Yes, the wind blows sand.

      If these Friends of the Dunes wants the studies done, THEY need to pay all legal fees. Do they not understand this us not a rich community?

      (7) 9 Total Votes - 8 up - 1 down
      • Kevin Rice says:

        Yes, cutting down Nipomo Forest was a real exacerbating thing to do.

        Government pays for the EIR, because it’s government’s project. Just like when a builder develops homes, the builder pays for the EIR. Government will also pay Friends’ legal fees if it is determined that government broke the law by handing out bogus emergency permits to their selves.

        (0) 14 Total Votes - 7 up - 7 down
  6. 65buick says:

    I love how we beat things to death in this country. Both sides can agree to one thing: to argue about it for eternity.

    (10) 14 Total Votes - 12 up - 2 down
  7. Pelican1 says:

    How funny…an “off road” organization called “Friends of Oceano Dunes”…a true oxymoron indeed.

    (-5) 57 Total Votes - 26 up - 31 down
    • hijinks says:

      And now, like the good enviro wreckreationists they are, they want the court to enforce environmental regulations to halt an environmental remediation effort. Amazing. Did George Orwell write this script?

      (-10) 42 Total Votes - 16 up - 26 down
      • Pelican1 says:

        Yes, and Orwell’s script inspired this…..

        (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
      • racket says:

        Dude, the law is the law.

        (1) 11 Total Votes - 6 up - 5 down
      • Kevin Rice says:

        Destroying the NATURAL wind-blown dunes with miles of orange fences is NOT “environmental remediation”.

        Neither is the house you live in and the streets you drive on. But you support those.

        (6) 32 Total Votes - 19 up - 13 down
        • hijinks says:

          who ever claimed their house and streets are environmental remediation? as for orange fences, a stopgap at best, but if they work like the old snow fences in the dunes, they’ll get the job done. green would be prettier, but when you’re tearing through the neighborhood, might miss them.

          (11) 13 Total Votes - 12 up - 1 down
        • Mythbuster says:

          Are the fences, houses and roads causing breathing problems? Read pirsquared on how is was and how it is now.

          (6) 10 Total Votes - 8 up - 2 down
          • Kevin Rice says:

            Read my response to pirsquared, who is naive to all the facts.

            Yes, houses and roads cause dust (tires, brakes, road aggregates, additional trips, construction, exhaust, etc.) Read the APCD comments in the Woodlands/Trilogy EIR warning that the project would significantly contribute to dust in the area.

            (-5) 17 Total Votes - 6 up - 11 down

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