Oso Flaco Lake could have as many as 20 guest cabins, 100 tent campsites and 200 recreational vehicle camping spots as well as new restrooms, hiking trails, a bicycle loop and a paved concession area if California State Parks Department’s draft plan is approved.
A new southern access to the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area is also part of the plan, with two optional routes proposed starting near the parking area and heading north, then west into the off-roading park.
The draft environmental impact report on the improvement plans for the entire Oceano Ranger District shows impacts of the Oso Flaco Lake project will be “less than significant” overall and even “beneficial” to sensitive habitat.
Some “potentially significant” impacts were found in the assessment; however, all but a couple were designated “less than significant” if proposed mitigation measures are applied, according to the draft EIR released for public review in December.
The Oso Flaco Improvement Project would take place in two phases, with the major development taking place in the future second phase.
First phase improvements would include the addition of primitive campsites, a new entry kiosk, restrooms, a formal parking area, paved concession area, new hiking trails, a bike loop and restored natural areas.
Second phase improvements would add 20 guest cabins, 100 tent campsites and 200 RV camping sites as well as the southern access to the Oceano Dunes SVRA.
If the adjacent Phillips 66 property becomes available in the future, State Parks would shift the southern access route to travel through that site, where facilities for such uses as parking and staging, education, off-highway vehicle safety training, concessions, special events and district operations would be constructed.
The draft EIR found the Oso Flaco project would result in potentially significant impacts to the Western snowy plover, California least tern, other nesting and migratory birds, California red-legged frog, Western pond turtle, Western spadefoot toad, Western burrowing owl, coast horned lizard, silvery legless lizard and American badger.
But mitigation measures the document says will make those impacts less than significant include avoiding and protecting birds’ breeding and nesting areas, avoiding amphibians, reptiles and badgers or relocating them.
There is no apparent mention of the California tiger salamander in the draft EIR.
Special-status plants would be avoided and protected, and disturbed vegetation and habitat would be replanted and restored at the ratios of 2-to-1 for woodlands, 3-to-1 for riparian areas and 1-to-1 for shrub and herbaceous vegetation, a mitigation the draft EIR lists as a project benefit.
The document states that “extensive restoration of riparian habitat and other natural vegetation will occur at the Oso Flaco Improvement Project resulting in a net gain of sensitive natural communities [and environmentally sensitive habitat] of up to 24.22 acres, which would be a beneficial impact.”
Future development of Oceano Dunes SVRA access through the Phillips 66 property would have a significant impact on health through exposure to hazardous materials existing in groundwater from previous oil production operations at the site, the draft EIR says.
But as mitigation, making the impact less than significant, a new water well will be drilled outside the contamination plume and the water will be treated as necessary, and an analysis of indoor air quality will be conducted on new structures and any recommendations from that will be implemented.
Noise, particularly temporary noise during construction, would result in a significant impact and would remain a significant, unavoidable impact even after mitigation measures are applied, according to the draft EIR.
The document says impacts on cultural and archaeological resources will be less than significant because the project area has been an agricultural site for a lengthy period of time and no tribal or other cultural sites are known.
However, it says Native Americans will monitor all land-disturbing work, and protocols have been established in case cultural artifacts are inadvertently found.
The analysis of land use and recreation impacts found the project would be a benefit by supporting off-highway vehicle recreation in the southern portion of the Oceano Dunes SVRA, a controversial use that has not been seen as a benefit by opponents.
But the draft EIR also said benefits of both the initial and future phases of the project include improving public access, providing enhanced recreation opportunities, providing new low-cost overnight accommodations on the coast, expanding nonmotorized recreation access through additional trails and campsites, and providing new visitor services.
The public has until March 2 to submit comments on the draft EIR, which will then be incorporated into the final EIR, but it’s a lot of information to wade through and absorb in a month’s time.
To help the public understand the ramifications of the plan and its impacts, the League of Women Voters of San Luis Obispo County has scheduled a discussion about it from noon to 1 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15, via Zoom and Facebook Live.
Experts chosen to present their viewpoints are Kara Woodruff, co-founder of Friends of Oso Flaco Lake, and Ronnie Glick, senior environmental scientist for California State Parks Department.
Neil Havlik of the League of Women Voters will moderate the discussion, and a question-and-answer session will follow, a league spokeswoman said.