Oceano Dunes closures planned despite disputed pollution reports

April 26, 2018

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

Despite mounting evidence indicating the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) used flawed science to deem the Oceano Dunes off-road riding area a public nuisance, the APCD and California state parks have reached a new agreement to shut down portions of the park to off-road vehicles in an attempt to reduce dust flows coming from the dunes. [Cal Coast Times]

The new proposal seeks to reduce particulate matter emissions by about 50 percent, rather than 30 percent as previously proposed. The proposal requires approval from the APCD hearing board before it can be adopted, with a meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. on April 30 at the Board of Supervisor Chambers.

For years, the APCD and Nipomo Mesa residents have clashed with state parks and off-road vehicle riders over Oceano Dunes dust flows. In 2011, the air district adopted the Oceano Dunes dust rule, which requires state parks to reduce the amount of particulate matter blowing from the dunes off-roading area or face fines of $1,000 per day.

In adopting the regulation, the APCD relied on contested studies that concluded off-road vehicles on the dunes were causing pollution on the Nipomo Mesa. The APCD also claimed that crystalline silica, which commonly appears in nature as quartz, made up a significant portion of the dust blowing onto the Nipomo Mesa and that it created a cancer risk for residents.

“While not specifically measured in the study, crystalline silica can be a significant portion of wind-blown sand and soil, and is a known lung cancer hazard in occupational settings; it can also cause fibrotic lung disease,” former air district chief Larry Allen stated in a March 2010 APCD staff report.

Allen, the architect of the dust rule, was referencing a particulate matter study conducted by the air district. In the same report, Allen also stated, “Silicon was the most common element found in the coarse fraction of the particle samples analyzed.”

In early 2017, The California Coastal Commission weighed in repeating the claim that the issue with public health stemmed from the silica content.

“As described by the APCD and the Superior Court, the dust emissions are injurious to public health, offensive to the senses and interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life within the meaning of nuisance…because the dust emissions are largely comprised of crystalline silica, which is known to be highly toxic,” according to a March 29, 2017, letter from the commission.

Later, in 2017, the APCD conducted air sampling tests for crystalline silica. Yet the agency refrained from publishing the test results.

Meanwhile, state parks conducted its own crystalline silica tests and did release the results. State parks’ tests showed crystalline silica levels were below the detection limit.

Recently, while opponents of the dust rule have criticized the air district’s claims about the presence of crystalline silica, Allen has said the issue of silica is a red herring.

In addition, a 2018 report by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego found that much of the dust blowing on the mesa is biological from the ocean and not the sand dunes.

Following the adoption of the dust rule, the regulation became the subject of a multi-year court battle, during which the APCD was barred from requiring state parks to obtain a permit to operate the riding area. The air district and state parks have since engaged in multiple rounds of talks on reaching a settlement.

Last month, the APCD and state parks agreed to a pollution abatement order that would have required state parks to fence off about 100 acres of riding area in order to create islands of vegetation within the Oceano Dunes. The order would also have required the implementation of plans to achieve yearly 5 percent reductions in particulate matter emissions through 2024, or about a 30 percent reduction over a five-year period.

However, the deal between the APCD and state parks was met with opposition from both sides, with supporters of off-road activity arguing against more closures of riding area saying the agreement is based on faulty science.

Nipomo residents, many who are stilling repeating concerns from the controversial APCD study, voiced opposition to the earlier proposed agreement, arguing it did not do enough to reduce emissions and air pollution on the Mesa.

After hearing from the public last month, the hearing board, a five-member body that is separate from the agency’s board of directors, shot down the agreement saying it did not go far enough to cut dust emissions.

In the proposed agreement released this week, state parks agreed to a target of a 50 percent reduction of dust emissions over the next five years. The agreement also requires the fencing off of riding areas for vegetation islands.

Presently, there are already 186 acres of fenced vegetation islands on the dunes, according to a map circulated by the APCD.

The APCD and state parks’ latest agreement also outlines other conditions, including the formation of a scientific advisory group. The advisory group would meet at least once a year to discuss emission reductions efforts.

Despite agreeing to the various terms in the deal, state parks still denies that off-roading is causing the pollution on the Nipomo Mesa.


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1965buick

Just say NO to blowing sand.


Snoid

Somebody better advise the Nopomians and Strand residents of GB and Oceano of Saltwater Aspiration Syndrome. Better tarp off the ocean when the wind blows to prevent this health hazard. Much worst than a little silica particulate from miles away.


Jorge Estrada

When the wind blows so does the dust. I regularly travel Highway 101 between the north end of Santa Maria and Nipomo, there is often a dust storm mid-week when there are no tourists on the dunes. Get ready for the process is to remove one interest before employing a better tax revenue interest. This is nothing new, the dunes just don’t generate what hotels and other commercial interests can on this beach. Where theirs a sandy beach there is development. Never mind the promise of preserving it, the plan is generational and you likely won’t be around for the disappointment.


rockhound1965

Same mind-set of “jet skiers”.

Back in the good ol’ days, before them, lakes and reservoirs were nice and quiet. Now, any lake that allows them is a non-stop circus from sunrise to sunset.

Now, that was also after drag boats came out in the 1950”s and just continued to get louder and faster with time, as the population exploded.

What was harmless fun from the twilight age of motors is now loud, obnoxious, and archaic. 100 years is a long time for a “sport”.

And yes…..when people began to reside near, it was the death knell. Typically, retirees who are not into loud and nonstop. It has been happening since the State took Malibu Ranch from its lawful owner ILLEGALLY so it could build a highway (Hwy.1) simply for real estate developers. How that for the “good of the public”? How about Luke Air Force Base, which was Arizona scrub desert before Phoenix finally caught up to it in the 1990’s. The people forced Luke AFB to alter it’s base protocol. Same with SFO, Burbank, LAX…..all have been impacted by nearby residents and development.

So, who’s the bad guy? Yep. Rich real estate spectators and developers. The only guaranteed way to keep $$$ flowing is to allow unchecked or stupid urban growth & development, as California does. All pushed by lobbyists, the biggest scam & scum in the wotld. Right next to “consultants”. Whenever I gear the word “consultant” I immediately think, “ringer”.


JordanJ

The APCD needed money after the Morro Bay plant closed, $300,000 a year lost forever. So they played with the reports and scared the people who live in Trilogy.


Yes there is a mist that blows on Trilogy when the winds are heavy, rights from the ocean.


shelworth

It doesn’t matter if it reduces airborne particulates or not, “They” don’t want anyone having this kind of fun, so it will be closed no matter what. It’s about control.


rukidding

Will be interesting that after the closure of part of the park if there is no difference at all? The nuisance is really caused by the people who approved, built and purchased the homes by the Dunes. I do believe that the Dunes and the wind were there before the houses. What ever happened to first come first served?


tomsquawk

Moratorium-temporary closure to prove the point?


Snoid

Government and Temporary should never be used in the same definition of anything.


SLOnative

Now if they can only get the prevailing northwesterlies to cooperate…


tomsquawk

“the issue of silica is a red herring”. that is true. someone wants to put the homeless there