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State Parks releases study on proposed Oceano Dunes dust control measures

Off-road vehicles and wind fences to reduce blowing dust at Oceano Dunes SVRA (State Vehicle Recreation Area).
Off-road vehicles and wind fences to reduce blowing dust at Oceano Dunes SVRA (State Vehicle Recreation Area). dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Planting dune vegetation and trees and installing seasonal wind fences are part of a five-year plan to reduce unhealthy amounts of dust blowing onto the Nipomo Mesa from Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area every spring and summer.

A draft environmental impact report covering those dust control activities at Oceano Dunes is available for public review and comment.

State Parks published the document Aug. 1, and the public has until Sept. 16 to comment on it. Additionally, there will be a public meeting to discuss and comment on the EIR at 6 p.m. Aug. 23 at the Ramona Garden Park Center in Grover Beach.

High particulate levels have been linked to asthma and other lung problems as well as to cardiovascular disease.

State Parks is proposing a variety of measures over five years to control the amount of dust that blows from the park onto the Nipomo Mesa, where state standards for particulate matter were exceeded 62 days in 2015 as a result of blowing dust from the park’s off-highway riding area.

In 2011, the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District issued Rule 1001, requiring State Parks to reduce the amount of dust blowing off the park onto the Nipomo Mesa. The rule generated six lawsuits since it was enacted, three of them from Friends of Oceano Dunes, a pro-OHV riding group.

For the past three years, State Parks has experimented with various dust control measures, such as installation of wind fences and hay bales to slow wind velocity over the sand. Many of the same measures are proposed in the EIR. The seasonal dust control measures would be in place as early as March 1 and removed as late as Sept. 30.

“There is no evidence about how effective those measures have been,” said Larry Allen, county air pollution control officer. “It is clear that substantially more dust mitigation than has put in place to date will be needed to reduce dust to levels to meet the requirements of the rule.”

During the past three years, dust levels have gone down, but, coincidentally, wind velocities during that time period have been lower than in previous years. Dust levels are usually highest during the spring, when winds blowing off the ocean are strongest.

In conjunction with the state Air Resources Board, the air district plans to do modeling of the proposed mitigation measures in coming months to test their effectiveness, Allen said.

The measures outlined in the EIR include planting about 20 acres with native dune vegetation, seasonally installing dust control measures such as wind fences on 40 acres and putting grooved concrete panels at the park’s two entrances to reduce the amount of sand tracked out of the park. Park staff may also plant trees on 295 acres just downwind of the park to act as a dust screen.

Brent Marshall, Oceano Dunes park superintendent, said although the EIR covers five years, the program would go on indefinitely. The five-year period would start after the EIR has been finalized later this year.

“We are really happy to get this document out,” he said. “Two or three years into the process, we will look at how we can refine it and then start on a new EIR.”

The EIR identifies several environmental impacts of the dust control measures. These include noise associated with installation of the track-out prevention devices and possible reductions in vehicular recreation opportunities at the park due to areas being closed to riders because of revegetation and the deployment of wind fences and other dust control measures.

How to learn more

A draft environmental impact report covering the dust control activities at Oceano Dunes is available for public review and comment.

The California State Parks Department published the document Aug. 1. The public has until Sept. 16 to comment on it.

Copies of the EIR are available for public viewing at the Oceano Dunes District Office in Pismo Beach and the Oceano Dunes Ranger Station in Oceano. The EIR can also be reviewed and downloaded at the website: http://ohv.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=26379.

A public meeting to discuss and comment on the EIR will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Aug. 23 at the Ramona Garden Park Center, 993 Ramona Ave., Grover Beach.

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