Editorial: Supervisors push state for answers

The county Board of Supervisors will send a strongly worded letter to the state, asking what it plans to do about air pollution linked to off-roading at the Oceano Dunes.

Bravo for the board.

For years, residents of the Mesa have been breathing in unhealthy levels of particulate matter.

A recent study linked that pollution to off-roading at the dunes, but the state’s immediate response has been to attempt to discredit the report.

That’s a bad approach. When it comes to protecting public health, it’s far better to err on the side of caution and take immediate steps to reduce the pollution.

So by all means, the county should send a letter — and if that doesn’t get a response, it should persist in pressuring the state until it does get some answers.

Off-roaders will no doubt interpret the board’s action as an assault on their “right” to operate vehicles in dunes. Yet supervisors aren’t talking about shutting down the dunes. In fact, nobody in authority is asking for that, because such action would be premature.

Instead, the board is requesting information about changes in operations or other strategies that could cut down on the amount of particulate matter wafting downwind to the Mesa.

While the letter doesn’t mention any specifics, such measures could include installing a barrier, such as fencing, and revegetating areas to keep the sand in place.

The board also is asking for help in evaluating potential heath effects. And it’s requesting that the state “work closely with the (county) Air Pollution Control District to implement a constructive and timely program of particulate mitigation.”

Those are all reasonable steps — especially when you consider that the county still owns a 600-acre section of dunes that’s part of the off-road recreation area. In that respect, the county is being a responsible landlord, which is more than we can say for the state of California.

Again, we aren’t calling for immediate closure of the dunes to off-roading activity. Nor is the board.

But residents of the Mesa do deserve answers, and instead of stonewalling, the state should provide them.