Flight noise problem badly overstated

Posted: Monday, May 15, 2000

Helicopter fly-over sound has been reduced this summer by 44 percent. Through the efforts of elected officials, and in particular Juneau assembly member Tom Garrett and the assembly's Planning and Policy Committee, voluntary compliance in hours of flightseeing operations are now in effect (8 a.m. to 7 p.m.) and altitude has been increased by a third. This is in addition to new routings, which combined with the increased altitudes has reduced noise by over half. Also, work on Snettisham dam has been completed, and the hundreds of helicopter flights over Juneau last summer that work necessitated are now also completed. Kudos to the legitimate city government system.

It is sad that such progress is sneered at by the Peace and Quiet Coalition. Apparently these five people will not be satisfied until the last helicopter in Juneau is grounded for the summer. This bunch now wants to perform an end run around the system and impose a further 42 percent reduction of flight hours. The no-fly rule they propose for summer Saturdays would ground any Juneauite wanting to fly anywhere and come back the same day on the same aircraft. But of course, these five folks are doing this for the good of the citizens of Juneau. This way we can get our wilderness experience at noon on Saturday right on the corner of Front and Franklin.

Efforts of the Planning and Policy Committee, in response to past complaints, further resulted in CBJ funding of an acoustical study to measure quantitatively the noise levels caused by helicopters in the Juneau area. In this manner, problem areas could be defined and solutions sought. Acoustical study could also provide data for potential summer satellite operations (e.g. ``little rock dump'' on Thane Road). Rough calculations for launching in the little rock dump indicate a noise reduction in Douglas and Juneau by 50 to 90 percent. Now, with smoke, mirrors and misleading statements, the five members of the Peace and Quiet Coalition through their mean-spirited initiative seek to prohibit any such study - as well as rachet back flight hours by 42 percent. Perhaps they have done some acoustical research on their own and realize what the scientific results of a study would most likely be.

As long as no study is allowed, they can continue to make noise about noise, and prevent any objective discussions and objective solutions to areas where there might possibly be any problem. Of course, these people like to say with a straight face they are not against tourism. However, at least one of this ``gang of five'' has bitterly complained in the past about ``overcrowding'' of streets and sidewalks downtown, and alleged that industry produced pollution that has caused paint to peel from her house.

Tourists are fine as long as they don't walk the streets of Juneau, fly, go boating, go fishing, walk on any of our over 60 trails, or (heaven forbid) visit Juneau by cruise ship. They are fine as long as they don't enjoy themselves to the level that we do. ``Share'' Juneau? Are you kidding? This is our land, and we don't need to share the beauty of this place with anyone else.

The five people promoting this highly irresponsible initiative seek to divide Juneau. Many Juneauites assume that even though there is no problem in their neighborhood, that there must be a problem somewhere else or these five would not be circulating this petition. Bad assumption. I live on Douglas Island in the vicinity of ERA's southbound route. I have opened windows and doors for the past week, been outside for considerable periods, and in all honesty have yet (this summer) to hear a helicopter on a flightseeing route. (My hearing is excellent, by the way.)

What must be assumed is that this group of five is not interested in facts nor discussions based on facts. They are pro-tourism as long as the tourists don't come to Juneau.

Whatever concessions and compromises are sought and achieved through the normal process are never enough. The Peace and Quiet group are never satisfied with governmental action unless the government agrees with them 100 percent. They now want to sidestep voluntary local actions, federal law, and propose a draconian solution for a problem which apparently has already been solved. They are blind to the negative effects and impacts of other ``environmentally green'' industries such as government, and uncompromising regarding tourism. They are equally blind to the benefits of tourism both economically to the area as well as in the many improvements to our quality of life.

How do you help stop these five people from dictating the destiny of Juneau? Simple. When asked to sign their irresponsible initiative, just say ``No, thanks.'' Juneau doesn't need this sort of an irresponsible initiative just like Juneau doesn't need another irresponsible ``Move the Capital'' initiative. Just say ``No, thanks.''

Jack Cadigan is a retired physicist and Coast Guard captain, and has studied and specialized in acoustics. A resident of Juneau for 35 years, he and his wife own the Irish Shop and House of Russia downtown and he is active in Destination Juneau, a pro-tourism group.

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