A group that represents off-roading enthusiasts says a “radical” five-year plan to decrease dust pollution from the Oceano Dunes would harm endangered species and was adopted after “last-minute substantial changes” that hindered public input, according to a lawsuit the group filed this week.
Friends of the Oceano Dunes sued the California Coastal Commission in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court in response to the commission’s September decision to issue a permit to State Parks to reduce the spread of dust that creates hazardous air conditions on the Nipomo Mesa.
That program, in general, would plant vegetation and add hay bales and fencing to help keep dust particles from blowing inland.
Friends of the Oceano Dunes was formed to protect public access and use of the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, the last remaining beach in California where you can drive off-highway vehicles. A representative with the group declined to comment for this story.
The 72-page complaint also names as defendants the Department of Parks and Recreation, San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District, California Air Resources Board, San Luis Obispo County and the City of Grover Beach.
In the lawsuit, the group claims that the Coastal Commission “disregarded the project’s obvious coastal resource impacts and authorized a vastly expanded dust control program that even the primary applicant, State Parks, didn’t ask for.”
The commission “neglected the one thing it is authorized to do — to ensure that new development doesn’t significantly impact coastal resources,” the suit says.
They say the commission eliminated setbacks and exclusions that State Parks has imposed to protect sensitive species (like the snowy plover or California least tern), removed limits on the annual acreage of vegetation that would be planted, and allowed dust-control measures to be installed closer to shore in areas deemed sensitive habitat.
The public was allowed four business days to respond to the commission’s staff report recommendeding approval of the expanded dust-control program, which the suit says limited the amount of time the organization had to respond to the proposal.
The group is asking a judge to direct the commission to set aside its approval of the permit, and find that the commission and other named agencies exceeded their authority while violating the Coastal Act and sensitive species protections. The lawsuit asks the court to award costs of the suit and attorneys’ fees.