The Pismo Beach City Council is sending a letter to county air officials raising concerns about plans to hold the State Parks Department responsible for unnatural amounts of dust blowing off Oceano Dunes.
The council Tuesday approved a letter urging the county Air Pollution Control District to delay adopting a rule that could subject Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area to fines of up to $1,000 a day. Council members said they favor a more collaborative approach.
Councilman Ed Waage, who is also a member of the air district’s board of directors, has been a vocal critic of a scientific study done by the air district that linked dune riding in the park to unhealthy levels of dust on the Nipomo Mesa.
The letter will outline several of what Waage considers flaws in the study, flaws that he said could make the air district vulnerable to a lawsuit by State Parks. These include reliance on wind speed measurements outside the riding area and flawed comparisons of dust levels coming off riding and nonriding areas.
“I’m concerned that, unless we get this right, we are going to end up in court,” Waage said.
State Parks officials have also found fault with the air study. They have requested using best management practices to reduce dust rather than enforceable rules.
“The necessity for a rule, in my mind, does not exist at this point,” said Andy Zilke, Oceano Dunes superintendent.
Larry Allen, county air pollution control officer, defended the dust study, saying it is the result of a decade of work, which has been verified by three independent scientific groups. It found that vehicle riding breaks up a naturally forming crust, making the sand more likely to become airborne.
“Everything we have seen indicates that vehicle activities are responsible for the high particulate levels, and we have to respond to protect public health,” he said.
The air district is not trying to shut down Oceano Dunes, Allen said. The park would only be liable if unhealthy dust levels from the riding area exceed background levels.
The air district board will meet Nov. 16, and an update on the Oceano Dunes dust rule will be on the agenda.