Dust-reduction deal to be approved

The county air pollution control board is expected to approve a deal Wednesday with State Parks to experiment with ways to reduce dust pollution coming from Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area.

Under the pact, technical advisory and oversight committees would have the goal of devising dust control pilot programs at the Dunes.

State officials have already signed the agreement, and the county Board of Supervisors is expected to approve it Aug. 3.A recent scientific study showed that off-highway vehicles in the park exacerbate the amount of fine particles that blow off the Dunes, causing unhealthy air quality downwind in the Nipomo Mesa.

State officials do not accept all of the study’s findings, but they agree that it would be beneficial to find ways to reduce particulates from the Dunes regardless of the role human activities might play.

Possible methods for reducing dust discussed at previous meetings include planting more vegetation and installing wind fences.

A technical advisory committee would come up with specific pilot-program proposals, said Gary Willey, engineering manager with the county Air Pollution Control District. The committee would have two representatives each from State Parks, the county and the air district, as well as one outside expert.

Methods found to be effective could eventually be incorporated into a set of countywide fugitive-dust regulations that the air district is now developing.

The technical committee’s activities would be managed by a nine-member oversight panel composed of three representatives from each agency.

Both committees must be formed within 14 days of approval of the agreement. The interagency agreement will last two years unless the parties agree to extend it.

A report released by the air district in February showed that open sand sheets in the Oceano Dunes riding areas emitted significantly greater amounts of particulates on high-wind days than dune areas outside the riding area.

Scientists speculate that undisturbed areas of open sand sheet form a crust that reduces the amount of particles that become airborne. Vegetated areas of the dunes do not emit windblown particles.