Local officials have dissolved two interagency committees tasked with finding a way to reduce dust blowing off the Oceano Dunes. The committees had come under criticism recently for conducting closed meetings.
County administrators, State Parks and the county Air Pollution Control District have terminated a memorandum of agreement that formed technical advisory and management oversight committees last summer.
Efforts to reduce the amount of dust blowing onto the Nipomo Mesa from the Dunes will continue, said Larry Allen, county Air Pollution Control officer. Ending the agreement will speed up the effort, which has a March deadline of starting to test dust control methods, he said.
It also solves a problem that has arisen in recent months — complaints that conference calls and other meetings of the committees were not open to the public and potentially violated the Brown Act, the state’s open-meeting law.
Attorneys for the air board said the committees were not subject to the Brown Act because they were not legislative bodies. However, disbanding the committees and working on a more informal basis avoids the whole controversy, Allen said.
“Having the committees meet the requirements of the Brown Act would have been extremely burdensome,” Allen said. “It would have added two or three years to the process. From a pubic health perspective, we have an obligation to move ahead expeditiously.”
A recent study by the air district showed that off-road riding in Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area exacerbates high particulate levels downwind of the park on the Nipomo Mesa. Particulates can be inhaled deep into lungs and thus pose a significant health problem.
The State Parks Department will oversee the testing of three pilot dust-control projects in consultation with air pollution control officials and experts from the Desert Research Institute, who specialize in mitigating blowing dust. The air district is also drafting fugitive-dust rules for Oceano Dunes.
Allen said he is pleased with the cooperation he has gotten from state parks officials and county administrators. An update on the Oceano Dunes dust issue will be a standard feature of every meeting of the county air board, which meets every other month. The board will hold its next meeting March 23.
Air officials hope to have a long-term particulate control program for the park developed by late summer or early fall.
Reach David Sneed at 781-7930.