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Hearing Thursday on sand dunes management plan

April 17, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL

Staff Writer

The fourth of six public hearings on the draft management plan for the Imperial Sand Dunes is scheduled for Thursday night in Brawley.

About 100 people attended the first meeting in El Centro, where a bomb-sniffing dog was part of the meeting's security team.

Environmentalists, business owners and off-roaders agree on one thing; they are unhappy with the four alternatives proposed in the draft plan by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the dunes. The BLM's preferred plan proposes to use "triggers" that would limit visitors to the dunes and trigger actions.


American Sand Association legal committee chairman Mark Harms said he would like to see more information at future meetings on how the triggers would work and what the potential effects would be.

"I'm concerned about how they will pull these triggers and once they're pulled, they are not reset," Harms said. "The BLM should be talking about the consequences of the triggers."

According to Neil Hamada, dunes manager for the BLM, the draft plan calls for a trigger if more than 55,403 people visit the dunes for 37 days (15 percent) of the off-roading season. If that happens, the BLM will:

· conduct resource and social surveys;

· promote non-holiday visitation;

· evaluate the feasibility of a reservation system, differential fees and enhancing education.

If more than 55,403 people visit the dunes over 49 days (20 percent) of the season, or by 15 percent for two consecutive seasons, the BLM will:

· set up a reservation system for 50 percent of designated campsites;

· limit the numbers of the visitors in the dunes.

He said the 55,403 figure was reached with the understanding that it includes holiday weekends even though the BLM knows that number will be exceeded on big holidays. However, the number is exceeded about 22 days per year, 15 days fewer than the first trigger point, which is 37 days.

Hamada acknowledged the draft plan does not have a reset for the triggers but the issue will be addressed in the final management plan.

The hearing is at 7 p.m. at the Brawley City Council chambers, 225 A St.

The next hearing will be Tuesday at the Yuma Civic and Convention Center and the final hearing will be in San Diego.

>> On the Web:

The draft, meeting schedule and comment instructions are available online at

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or

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