Environment

Friends of Oceano Dunes sues Coastal Commission over dust rule

Fencing at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area was installed to control blowing dust. The fences slow winds and drop airborne sand to to the ground.
Fencing at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area was installed to control blowing dust. The fences slow winds and drop airborne sand to to the ground. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Another lawsuit has been filed in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court over the controversial Oceano Dunes dust mitigation rule.

This is the latest in a series of five lawsuits the group Friends of Oceano Dunes has filed over a 2011 rule from the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District requiring the California Department of Parks and Recreation to reduce the amount of unhealthy dust blowing off Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area and onto the Nipomo Mesa.

Friends of Oceano Dunes is a group of off-highway vehicle enthusiasts that works to keep the Oceano Dunes SVRA open to riding. The group claims to represent 28,000 park users. Neither Friends of Oceano Dunes nor the Coastal Commission returned calls for comment.

However, this suit is against the California Coastal Commission with State Parks and the air district listed as codefendants. It alleges that the commission improperly issued emergency permits to the park to do dust control projects and says the commission should revoke those permits.

The suit argues that the commission should have gone through the normal process of issuing a coastal development permit for the work, including preparing an environmental impact report.

“The commission has a duty to enforce the Coastal Act requirements for a regular coastal development permit for development, including dust control measures and monitoring, at Oceano Dunes SVRA and a duty to not issue emergency permits in violation of the Coastal Act and state law,” the lawsuit states.

Work done at the park to control blowing dust includes installing 40 acres of wind fencing, hay bales, monitoring equipment, trailers, 33-foot-tall wind towers and meteorological instruments. According to the dust rule, State Parks must find a way to reduce the amount of dust blowing off the dunes to near natural levels.

On windy days, particularly during the springtime, particulate levels on the Nipomo Mesa frequently exceed state health limits. High particulate levels have been linked to asthma and other lung problems.

In March 2013, State Parks and state and local air officials signed a consent decree to cooperatively find a way to reduce blowing dust. On March 7, San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge ruled that the dust rule is legal.

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