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Dunes committees to disband 

Two committees created to clean up air quality around the Oceano Dunes will be dissolved, according to a press release by the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District (SLOAPCD).

The two committees were formed by a memorandum of agreement among California Department of Parks and Recreation, the County of San Luis Obispo, and the SLOAPCD in late July 2010 and tasked with creating a particulate matter reduction plan for the dunes’ Vehicular Recreation Area.

The memorandum provided for the establishment of a Technical Advisory Committee, responsible for preparing the scope of the reduction plan, as well as a Management Oversight Committee, responsible for approving all work done by the technical committee.

The district designated both committees as “ad hoc,” arguing they weren’t legislative bodies and so weren’t open to the public, as would be required under the Brown Act. That determination didn’t sit well with people on both sides of the debate.

On Jan. 18, off-highway vehicle advocate Kevin Rice presented a letter to the district demanding the committees comply with the Brown Act within 30 days or face litigation. A month later, the district announced it would dissolve the two committees and replace them with a “more streamlined process.” The district’s release made no mention of pending litigation, but chief district officer Larry Allen told New Times the decision was “somewhat related” to Rice’s demand.

 “Our attorneys sat down and determined they were not subject to the Brown Act, but our concern was that they could be perceived as such, and we have a lot of work to do,” Allen said.

Allen argued that if the committees were open to the public, it would add years to the process—essentially, nothing would get done.

“They didn’t want to appear to be acting as a result of my demand, but it’s just spin,” Rice told New Times.

Under the new process, State Parks will oversee technical experts in implementing three pilot projects, while all three parties will continue to draft a long-term particulate matter reduction plan.

The district said the public will have an opportunity to review and comment through public workshops and board hearings tentatively scheduled for late summer 2011.

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