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Supes spar in wake of dunes dust mitigation plan's passage

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Hoping to make some progress after years controversy over the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, the California Coastal Commission approved a permit for a five-year dust mitigation plan proposed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

But the small step forward did little to quell conflict between members of the SLO County Board of Supervisors, who have already begun arguing after its passage.

DUSTY TRAILS The California Coastal Commission approved a five-year plan by State Parks officials to try and mitigate dust at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • Photo By Steve E. Miller
  • DUSTY TRAILS The California Coastal Commission approved a five-year plan by State Parks officials to try and mitigate dust at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area.

The five-year plan, proposed by state parks and approved with some additional conditions and amendments by the Coastal Commission at a Sept. 14 meeting, will allow state parks to enact several dust mitigation measures both inside and outside the dunes off-highway vehicle riding areas. Those include planting 20 acres of native vegetation each year, installing 40 acres of wind fencing during the park's windy season, and utilizing a non-toxic soil stabilizer and straw bales to help with dust control. Under the approved plan, state parks will also install dust-monitoring equipment at the dunes.

State parks staff said that the five-year plan was created to comply with the SLO County Air Pollution Control District's dust mitigation regulations, including Rule 1001.

Until the commission's approval of the plan, temporary dust mitigation measures at the dunes had been enacted under an emergency permit but were not effective, according to APCD officials.

The passage of the plan left some residents of the nearby Nipomo Mesa cautiously optimistic. Those residents have long raised concerns about impacts of dust from the dunes on their health.

"I was impressed by the members of the commission that pursued the right to breathe clean air and health care issues," Stanley Fisher, an 11-year Nipomo Mesa resident who was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and end stage lung disease in 2016 wrote in an email response to questions from New Times. "I left the meeting feeling that progress had been made."

OHV users, including members of the Friends of the Oceano Dunes, raised concerns that the plan would continue to shrink available riding space at the popular state park.

"This is death by a thousand fence posts," Friends President Jim Suty told commissioners at the hearing.

Second District Supervisor Bruce Gibson appeared at the meeting to raise concerns about a letter of support for the un-amended plan authored by 1st District Supervisor and board Chairman John Peschong. The letter was sent to the commission Aug. 22 and was typed on a letterhead bearing the county's seal. Gibson indicated that the letter included language that incorrectly indicated its contents were endorsed by the full board.

"As county supervisors, we also serve on the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control Board," stated the letter, which was signed only by Peschong.

Gibson noted that the board never voted to take an official position on the plan and called Peschong's letter "inappropriate." At a Sept. 19 supervisors meeting, Gibson rebuked Peschong for sending the letter.

"Its phrasing can't be read any other [way] than an egregious fabrication of a non-existent board position," Gibson said.

Peschong pushed back, stating that the letter did not mention the other supervisors and was not sent on the board's official letterhead, which includes the names of all five supervisors.

"At no time do I mention, actually, any of the other supervisors," Peschong said. "At no time did I imply that the full board agreed with me."

Peschong added that the letter was originally going to be signed by himself and 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold, but that Arnold sent her own letter. Commission staff told New Times Sept. 20 that Gibson and Peschong were the only two supervisors to send any correspondence related to state park's plan.

The board took no formal action related to Peschong's letter at the Sept. 19 meeting. Δ


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