Experts hired to study Oceano Dunes particulates

The Desert Research Institute of Reno has been hired as a consultant to help local officials find ways to reduce unhealthy amounts of dust blowing off the Oceano Dunes.

Dunes experts Nicholas Lancaster and Jack Gillies from the institute will help State Parks, air pollution control and county officials devise pilot dust-control programs to be implemented in the spring.

The institute’s website describes Lancaster as “the world’s foremost expert on desert sand dunes.” Gillies is a wind expert with 14 years of research in “the physics of fugitive dust emission by wind and anthropogenic processes,” the website says.

“They were the two everyone agreed on,” said Aeron Arlin-Genet, spokeswoman for the county Air Pollution Control District. “Both have lots of experience with sand moving from high wind events.”

The hiring of the two experts will be discussed at a public meeting Wednesday of an interagency management oversight committee. The meeting will run from 10 a.m. to noon at the San Luis Obispo library at 995 Palm St.

A technical advisory committee has already come up with several proposals for pilot programs and ways to measure the movement of sand, Arlin-Genet said. Proposals include revegetation and the use of hay bales.

The budget for the development of pilot programs is $100,000. The county has supplied $25,000 to get the programs established.

State Parks has agreed to pay for the pilot programs. However, it is unclear whether the state will reimburse the county’s $25,000, Arlin-Genet said.

Last year, the county, Air Pollution Control District and State Parks entered into a memorandum of agreement to find ways to reduce the amount of particulate matter that blows off of Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area and onto the Nipomo Mesa on windy days.

A study by the air district concluded that off-highway vehicle riding on the Dunes exacerbates the problem.

Reach David Sneed at 781-7930.