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Sierra Club loses in dunes lawsuit

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According to Sierra Club Chapter Director Andrew Christie, a Sept. 30 decision in the club’s lawsuit over the Oceano Dunes’ so-called buffer zone, is kind of a mixed bag.

On the one hand, Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall’s decision to deny the club’s lawsuit against the California Department of Parks means the 584-acre La Grande Tract of Oceano Dunes will continue to serve as a playground for offroaders. Then again, Christie said Crandall basically affirmed that using the tract for offroading violates the San Luis Obispo County Local Coastal Program (LCP).

Crandall found that, though offroading is in violation of the LCP, it isn’t in violation of the state’s general development plan. But, Christie told New Times, if the state were to update its plan, it would have to incorporate the LCP and therefore eliminate offroading.

“We’re saying you can’t do that,” Christie said. “You can’t base the remedy for the problem that’s been brought forward on something that may never come forward.”

In effect, if the state made such an update, it would shoot itself in the foot and lose revenue generated by the park.

The Sierra Club sued after SLO County planning commissioners and supervisors agreed with its contention that the LCP should prohibit offroading in 2007.

Dena Bellman, parks and recreation specialist for the Oceano Dunes District, declined to comment on the case pending an interpretation from the legal office.

Christie said the club plans to appeal, probably in about a month.

“We’re looking forward to this as also being the remedy to the severe air-pollution problem that’s coming off the dunes and hitting the Nipomo mesa,” he said.

The County Air Pollution Control District determined offroading activities are responsible for generating high levels of particulate matter that sweep off the dunes. On Oct. 19, county supervisors approved a $25,000 budget adjustment that will allow the district to fund “pilot projects” to reduce the particulate matter.

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