Heliport site sounds like a done deal

My turn

Posted: Wednesday, May 30, 2001

With regard to the latest study underway to identify potential new heliport sites, it is clear that the dice are loaded. Although there is nothing in writing, it is the contractor's understanding (also reported in the Empire) that a prime component of the contractor's job is to identify one prime site north of town and one south of town.

Of course, there is only one road that leads south from town, and of the four sites south of town along Thane Road identified as potential sites by the operators, three are disqualified for obvious reasons. Two of these sites are the Rock Dump and the Little Rock Dump. Neither of these is viable because the Douglasites won't stand for it, and for good reason. After all, it was ERA's proposal to lease the Little Rock Dump that got things started nearly two years ago. A third site, dubbed "Gastineau Channel East" appears to be near Dupont. This, of course, would require an extension of the road. Yet clearly DOT will not be extending the road any time soon unless someone gave them a large, specific bequest. That leaves only one, viz. the site identified as the "Sheep Creek Mine Portal" (or another site close by on the waterside of the road, owned by AEL&P). It is the only viable site because it has access, it has a sufficiently large area of relatively flat land, and the only people who would be impacted are the Thane Road residents. Indeed, the very fact that such a small number of people live on Thane adds to its attractiveness. Under the criteria being employed, the sites that would affect the fewest number of homes are those to be given the most consideration.

Given this, query why we need to spend any more money on a study. Since there is only one site on the road which is viable (I consider the site below the road and the one above the road as virtually the same, as they are so close together), the money could be better spent on counseling for Thane Road residents. In part, the predictable result is that those of us who have deliberately chosen (and paid the price) to live as far from the maddening crowd as possible, may soon, in effect, be punished for it. By requiring a prime site south of town, the city has prejudged the entire exercise.

Of course, I do not wish a heliport in my backyard, but part of my complaint, now and in the past, is that it should not have to be in anyone's backyard. The nature of the problem is that the sheer number of flights has diminished our quality of life. The real solution is to reduce the total number of flights. This is what both the Forest Service and the city should be pursuing if they really want to do the greatest good for the greatest number.

Ray C. Preston is a resident of Thane Road.

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