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SLO County air pollution board approves dunes dust abatement order

Posted at 6:24 PM, Apr 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-30 21:24:04-04

The San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District is moving forward with plans to reduce the amount of dust that comes off the Oceano Dunes.

On Monday, the hearing board voted 4-to-1 to approve a stipulated order of abatement against the State Parks Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division. Under the order, State Parks must put up more than 100 acres of fencing and vegetation at the dunes and create a scientific advisory group. 

"People on the mesa want their air cleaned up and the ridership doesn’t want to lose area," said Dr. Bill Nickling, special master for the case. 
 
Eighty-five people signed up to take the podium during Monday’s public comment period.
 
It’s the third time riders and Nipomo Mesa residents have been packed together under one roof before the SLO County Air Pollution Control District. 
 
The years-long debated topic: dust pollution at the dunes.

"Members of this hearing board, please issue an abatement order which will allow people to breathe clean air every day," said one Nipomo Mesa resident. 

"If we are seeking to reduce dust and pm levels, then why are we only focusing on the OHV? It’s 1,500 acres of 18,000," said off-road rider Joel Hitchen. 
 
All day long Monday, folks expressed their concerns over the proposed abatement order. 
 
The Air Pollution Control District claims the Off-Highway Vehicle area at the dunes is a public nuisance and creates excessive levels of particulate matter that create a health concern. 
 
Dr. Nickling says the goal is to reduce emissions by 50 percent over the next five years.   

"We think that’s doable," he said.
 
Half of the room wore red to represent Concerned Citizens for Clean Air. Some said the order lacks a sense of urgency. 
 
Eight-year Nipomo Mesa resident Dr. Richard Wishner said, "My biggest issue is just air quality. It forces us to say inside on windy afternoons." 
 
The other half, Friends of the Oceano Dunes, came in blue. 
 
Riders like Hitchen say his family has lived on the mesa for years and while he’s all for reducing the dust, "The facts over feelings here. I want to see the data that OHV, off-highway vehicles, are causing the problem," Hitchen explained. 
 
The district says 133 complaints were filed by residents downwind of the OHV area from 2012 to 2017. It also claims there were 363 days when the state particulate matter levels were violated. 
 
State Parks must start installing the fencing on June 1. 

Click here to read the [Proposed] Stipulated Order of Abatement.