Letters to the Editor

VIEWPOINT: Clearing the air regarding the choices for Oceano Dunes

The political dust-up over dust emanating from the Oceano Dunes has been created mostly by fear-mongering and false choices. Mix in the deliberately kicked-sand of misinformation, and it’s no surprise that many folks are left to think that any actions taken by the county’s Air Pollution Control District (APCD) will either close the OHV recreational area or are merely a form of subterfuge to eventually accomplish this.

So let me state from the outset that this is simply not the truth. I serve in two roles in regard to this issue, both as a member of the APCD board and as a member of our county’s Board of Supervisors. Most readers are probably aware that the county owns a large tract of property in the Dunes area, so my role as a supervisor adds an additional level of responsibility both as a representative of the property and of the citizens potentially affected by particulate pollution.

Despite many attempts to deprecate the APCD’s Phase II study, despite many attempts to blur the facts of its methodology and its findings, and despite continued personal attacks on those involved in conducting and analyzing the study, the valid, scientific truth is that there continues to be unhealthy levels of particle pollution emanating from the Dunes that is exacerbated by the riding activities.

Doing nothing about this, or continuing to question, mislead or delay — which is just another way to do nothing or very little, would be a total abdication of our critical responsibility to protect the health of our citizens. The Board of Supervisors was warned early and often by our counsel that doing nothing or even very little would leave us exposed and potentially liable to a variety of justifiable legal actions.

Doing nothing could cost county taxpayers quite a lot of money. Doing nothing could very well necessitate the closing off of the county property, thereby greatly reducing the recreational area. Those are not results I want to see.

Thus, we have acted with great care to work as best as we can with the OHV division of State Parks to address the pollution. Limited pilot projects have already shown that there are very effective ways to mitigate the pollution. Thus, the either/or premise that continues to be perpetuated by both supporters and opponents of the riding area is a false choice. We can mitigate the pollution to protect the health of our citizens, and the activities enjoyed by so many in the recreational area can continue.

But we also need to have in place the necessary rules to ensure that the pollution is in fact addressed. Certainly even those who decry regulation in most of its forms would agree that at a minimum, regulation to protect public health is an obligation of good government.

It is my hope that our APCD board will act on its obligation.

It is my hope that the APCD, the county and the OHV division of State Parks will continue to work together to resolve this issue responsibly.

There is so much at stake, not the least of which are the economic benefits that the recreation area brings to the South County. I am fully cognizant and truly concerned about this critical element. I have spent a large part of my time in office providing needed leadership on business-related issues and with great successes and ongoing efforts. So I’d like to end by dispelling another false choice: one about a healthy environment versus a healthy economy.

Clean air and healthy citizens do not threaten economic and recreational opportunities. Please resist the extremist and deceptive propaganda that would lead you to believe otherwise. Let us rise above the ruckus with both our optimism and our critical thinking skills intact.