County supervisors Tuesday approved the installation of five wind towers in the Oceano Dunes over the misgivings of some Nipomo Mesa residents.
Phil Jenkins, director of the Off Highway Vehicle Division of the State Department of Parks and Recreation, said the towers will be used to gather data to evaluate the effectiveness of pilot projects being conducted in the Dunes this spring to reduce the amount of sand blowing onto the Mesa.
The project was appealed by Terry Sweetland of Oceano and Katrina Dolinsky of the Mesa. Both said they don’t trust officials with the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area to use the data collected by the towers to protect public health. Dust is a major air pollutant on the Nipomo Mesa and poses health risks for people living there.
“This is a waste of money,” Sweetland said. “I think they are just trying to muddy the waters.”
A recent scientific study by the county Air Pollution Control District showed that greater quantities of dust blow off the off-highway vehicle riding area than from adjacent nonriding dune areas. Jenkins said his department accepts that fact but is not convinced OHV are the cause. The location of the riding area or other variables could be the cause, he said.
Supervisors said public distrust of State Parks was outside the scope of the permit hearing. They reiterated their commitment to finding a way to reduce unhealthy levels of dust blowing from the park.
“I don’t see that there is a problem in putting in these structures,” Supervisor Bruce Gibson said.
Two of the towers will be in the riding area while another two will be outside it in the Oso Flaco Lake area. The fifth will be at the CalFire station on Highway 1.
It should take four to six weeks to install them, said Ronnie Glick, park environmental scientist. They will be in place for two years.
State Parks officials and consultants hired by the Air Pollution Control District are set to begin experimenting with hay bales and revegetation as means to control blowing dust.