Oceano Dunes dust monitors are blocked for now

Five wind-monitoring stations will not be installed at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area to help determine how much dust blows off the park and onto the Nipomo Mesa.

At its most recent monthly meeting, the state Coastal Commission agreed that an appeal of the project raised enough questions to warrant a full hearing at a later date. No date for that hearing was set.

Andy Zilke, Oceano park superintendent, said the delay will likely force the State Parks Department to find another way to gather the wind data information, one that doesn’t require a state coastal development permit. Zilke said he would work with Coastal Commission staff to find a solution.

The parks department had planned on having the wind towers in place for two years while county air pollution control officials explore ways to reduce the amount of dust that blows off the park and onto the Nipomo Mesa on windy days. However, it could take years before the Coastal Commission schedules the required second hearing.

Three years ago, parks officials proposed installing a set of vault toilets at Oceano Dunes. That proposal was also appealed and has yet to have its appeal hearing, Zilke said.

The wind towers were appealed by Nipomo Mesa resident Katrina Dolinsky. The commission agreed that the appeal raised valid questions about the towers’ effect on endangered species habitat and the visuals of the park.

Meanwhile, work on reducing dust pollution on the Nipomo Mesa continues. Larry Allen, county air pollution control officer, told his board of directors Wednesday that the field work on a series of dust control pilot projects was completed May 6.

The projects measured how much dust blows off areas inside and outside the park’s riding area compared to vegetated areas and areas with a grid of hay bales. Consultants are analyzing the dust data and will have a preliminary report in July. Allen also hopes to have a set of countywide dust-control regulations ready for consideration in July.