A second attempt to mediate flightseeing noise issues crashed and burned before it began.
A consultant from the company that headed a failed mediation attempt last year has recommended against using a different approach called shuttle mediation.
Mediator Vicki King of Triangle Associates in Seattle has issued a report saying although all parties indicated a strong desire to resolve the noise problem, several were unwilling to participate in shuttle mediation - an approach in which a consultant shuttles proposals between parties, as opposed to parties meeting face-to-face.
"I believe the conditions for a successful mediation on flightseeing noise issues in Juneau do not exist at this time and recommend that there be no attempt at resolution using any mediation process unless and until conditions change," wrote King.
Another consultant from Triangle ended the first mediation attempt in December, saying parties were unable to agree on ground rules. The U.S. Forest Service later hired King to determine whether shuttle mediation would work.
King recommended against mediation after interviewing people involved in the first round of talks, including two citizens' groups, flightseeing operators and conservation representatives.
The conservation caucus and the Peace and Quiet Coalition, one of the citizens' groups, did not want to participate in shuttle mediation, and participation by all major players is a prerequisite for success, she said.
"It's time for a new approach," said Ray Preston, of the Peace and Quiet Coalition. "Something other than mediation."
Also, flightseeing operators had no apparent incentive to reduce the number of landings during 2001 because the Forest Service issued landing permits last November - before the first round of mediation ended, King said. The agency issued the same number of permits as in 2000.
"Citizen representatives continue to feel that the Forest Service showed bad faith in November 2000 when it issued the landing permits for 2001, rather than waiting for input from the mediation effort," King said. "Without the number of landing permits for 2001 as an issue for negotiation, citizens don't believe the full range of alternatives is on the table."
Bob Engelbrecht, owner of NorthStar Trekking, called that a misunderstanding, saying flightseeing operators thought all along the number of permits would stay the same this year. The operators didn't realize some parties thought the 2001 permits were on the table for negotiation, he said.
"We were operating under that understanding and that expectation that we would have the same kinds of permits in 2001 that we did in 2000, and I think others that came to the table maybe didn't have a clear understanding of that and thought we were sitting down in the mediation process to negotiate out what the permits would be for the 2001 season," said Engelbrecht, saying he was disappointed mediation didn't work.
District Ranger Pete Griffin defended the Forest Service, saying it had to issue the permits in November because flight operators contract with cruise lines early to sell package tours for the following season. Flight operators need to know the number of allowed landings by fall, so they can close the deals, he said.
However, he wishes he did a better job explaining the deadline to the mediation group - perhaps that would have changed the outcome, Griffin said.
"There are some things I wish I had done differently," he said. "That is one."
Griffin does not consider the mediation a failure because it prompted the city to take a closer look at the issue, he said. The Juneau Assembly's Planning and Policy Committee is now considering ways to reduce noise. Griffin also did not rule out another try at mediation in the future.
Engelbrecht, of NorthStar Trekking, said flight operators will continue to meet with each other on the issue. Preston, of the Peace and Quiet Coalition, is taking another approach. He planned to deliver a proposal to the mayor today calling on the city to form a blue ribbon commission to tackle the problem. The panel would consist of unbiased people and make recommendations to the Assembly in the fall of 2001, said Preston, noting the proposal was written by the late Hugh Malone, who died earlier this month in Italy.
Kathy Dye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.