State parks testing sand fencing at Oceano Dunes

Mar 20, 2014

A protected area of the Oceano Dunes.
Credit Randol White - KCBX News

Management with California State Parks is trying something new this spring to help keep sand and dust generated by seasonally strong winds at the Oceano Dunes away from residents of the Nipomo Mesa.

Wind fencing is being added this week to a 15 acre area within the State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA). It's a test aimed at reducing the speed of the particulates so they drop out of the air rior to reaching the mesa.

This is just the first of several projects, all part of a $1 million effort aimed at mitigating the particulate problem, according to Brent Marshall, Oceano Dunes superintendent. 

"It's a fully comprehensive package," said Marshall. "We have scientists developing these things, staff implementing them, and then of course scientific equipment to help evaluate what our success rate is going to be."

The Oceano Dunes air pollution situation has been the source of political and legal battles for many years. Earlier this year, the group Mesa Community Alliance filed a lawsuit in San Luis Obispo Superior Court asking a judge to ban off-road vehicle activity until the parks department can meet specific air quality standards.

"The sand fencing and hay bales are no more than an empty effort to show that after four years they are doing something." said Arlene Versaw with the alliance. "This project falls far short of meeting the state air quality standards and Rule 1001, which are designed to protect public health."

Versaw says she believes the temporary project is simply a way to keep the EPA from getting involved. "This project falls far short of meeting the state air quality standards and Rule 1001, which are designed to protect public health," she told KCBX.

The sand fencing is scheduled to be removed at the end of the area's "windy season" on June 30.