Viewpoint

Public served by careful analysis

November 23, 2012 

In response to The Tribune editorial of Nov. 18: California State Parks is making every effort to be cooperative in addressing the air quality issues at Oceano Dunes and the Nipomo Mesa. Air particulate regulatory matters are highly complex and do not readily lend themselves to judgments made in the absence of sound data. Because we know this is a vital issue to the community, State Parks has been vigorously pursuing answers to a very real public health issue.

State Parks has consistently stood by our commitment to help address air quality concerns. State Parks has followed the requirements of Rule 1001, met all deadlines and is on track to submit necessary permitting documents by the rule’s Nov. 30 deadline. In a show of good faith, State Parks voluntarily contributed $20,000 toward the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District’s (SLOAPCD’s) Community Monitoring Project and has increased street sweeping to reduce dust from sand tracked out of the state vehicular recreation area.

This has all been done despite our valid, science-based objections to the SLOAPCD regulatory attempts to focus solely on Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. Contrary to assertions that State Parks has been throwing up roadblocks, it is worth noting that more than a year ago State Parks requested but was denied permits to conduct much of the monitoring currently at issue and that would have provided valuable data to speed the process along.

Air quality concerns on the Nipomo Mesa are far more complex than otherwise depicted. Our submittals to the SLOAPCD Board include numerous technical documents from experts, including the California Geological Survey.

The continued characterization of our monitoring efforts as simply efforts to disprove the APCD’s conclusions is not productive. All sides should be willing to openly share and review scientifically sound data clarifying where dust control measures can be most effectively implemented.

Significant technical efforts have been undertaken by a team of experts assembled by State Parks. This team includes scientists vetted by the APCD as qualified to conduct pilot project work at Oceano Dunes in 2011 and the state’s geology expert, the California Geological Survey.

The Dust Rule has a timeline that does not factor in the time needed to obtain permits. For example, discussions with the California Coastal Commission make it clear that permitting will optimistically take one year’s time for processing and review. That is the reality of permitting constraints on the fieldwork we must do as part of the Dust Rule.

There is an insistence that State Parks specify the exact type, locations and magnitude of measures for reducing sand movement and potential dust generation before we conduct any testing, and that we install these measures prior to determining their effectiveness. This is akin to constructing a building without a survey or plans.

The public is better served by careful analysis of facts.

Roy Stearns is deputy director for communications, California State Parks.

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