The off-highway vehicle division of State Parks is preparing an environmental review of its plans to reduce excessive dust blowing off Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreations Area.
On Dec. 4, State Parks issued a notice of preparation, which is an announcement that an environmental impact report is being written. The EIR will be released as early as March and will cover a program State Parks is proposing to comply with a dust-control rule issued in November 2011 by the county Air Pollution Control District.
The planned dust-control program at Oceano Dunes contains three components – monitoring, dust-control measures and steps to reduce the amount of sand tracked out of the park by vehicles.
The deadline for public comments on the scope of the EIR is Jan. 4. To comment, send an e-mail to OHVInfo@parks.ca.gov. Enter “Oceano Dunes SVRA Dust Control Project NOP” in the subject line.
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In order to be effective, the dust-control program must reduce the number of days that air quality on the Nipomo Mesa, which sits downwind of the OHV park, exceeds state standards for particulates. The current average is 60 days a year.
Dust-control techniques to be considered in the environmental review include replanting open dune areas with annual grasses and using straw bales, woodchip berms, and wind fences to disrupt the wind as it blows over the surface of the sand, causing airborne sand particles to drop out.
State Parks held a public meeting Dec. 19 at Ramona Garden Park in Grover Beach to outline the pending EIR. It was attended by two members of the public and three air district officials.
Relations between State Parks and the air district have gotten chilly in recent months. Larry Allen, air pollution control officer, has publicly accused State Parks of dragging its feet in implementing the dust rule.
State Parks is relying too heavily on monitoring and is in danger of missing some key deadlines contained in the dust rule Allen said. For example, dust control measures are supposed to start in mid-2013 but State Parks estimates it will not begin control measures until winter of 2014.
“Their timeline does not come close to meeting the timeline in the dust rule,” Allen said. “They essentially want two years of monitoring before they do anything.”
State Parks did not respond to a request for comment on the agency’s impasse with the air district. However, the agency has criticized the findings of a scientific study that linked high particulate levels on the Nipomo Mesa with riding activities in Oceano Dunes.
State Parks employees have also told air quality officials that they hope that additional monitoring will show that dust control measures are not needed, Allen said.