Lawsuits over Oceano Dunes dust-control rule are dismissed

An ATV rider kicks up sand at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area.
An ATV rider kicks up sand at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. The Tribune

A judge has dismissed two lawsuits that challenged the validity of a controversial dust-control rule that requires State Parks to reduce the amount of dust blowing off its Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area.

The lawsuits challenged several aspects of the rule but mainly attacked the science the rule was based on. Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall rejected those arguments, saying that the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District’s dust rule and the science it was based on were peer-reviewed by many agencies.

“The district undertook the process of developing a regulation designed to reduce the offending emissions,” Crandall wrote. “It held public workshops, considered and responded in detail to over 200 pages of comments submitted by rule opponents and made several changes in response.”

The lawsuits were brought by Friends of Oceano Dunes, a group that supports off-highway vehicle riding in the dunes, and San Luis Obispo resident Kevin P. Rice. State Parks was listed as a real party-in-interest, meaning it has substantial interest in the outcome of the case.

Ray Biering, attorney for the air district, praised the ruling, calling it solid and scholarly.

“The decision holds that APCD’s Rule 1001 was legally adopted and supported by substantial scientific evidence on the need to reduce particulate matter emissions from the dunes to protect public health,” he said.

Thomas Roth, attorney for Friends of Oceano Dunes, did not respond to a request for comment.

In oral arguments in January, the plaintiffs contended that the district failed to show a clear correlation between vehicle riding in the dunes and high levels of dust downwind on the Nipomo Mesa. Crandall addressed this issue in his ruling.

“Friends and State Parks have not presented compelling evidence that the district’s interpretation and reliance on the scientific evidence was arbitrary or capricious,” Crandall wrote.

State Parks is in the process of developing a plan to reduce dust emissions from the park. The agency has identified revegetation of the dunes, placing hay bales among the dunes to disrupt wind flow and installing wind fences as possible ways of reducing blowing dust.

Air quality on the Nipomo Mesa violates state standards an average of 65 days per year because of high particulate levels.

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