Study to track noise in Juneau

Results may shape polices on flightseeing

Posted: Friday, July 14, 2000

A $100,000 study of how much noise there is in Juneau -- with and without flightseeing aircraft -- is slated to kick off with a public meeting July 27.

The city manager has hired Michael Baker Jr. Inc. to take the city's first stab at gathering technical data about what some residents characterize as an intolerable intrusion, and others view as an acceptable side effect of doing business.

Two other recently conducted noise studies, one by the Federal Aviation Administration and the other by the Forest Service, differed appreciably in scope from this one, said McKie Campbell, senior environmental manager for Baker, a national engineering firm with offices in Juneau.

``The (FAA's) airport study focused on noise and other issues at the airport,'' Campbell said. ``And the Forest Service regulates where aircraft can land on Forest Service land, where their study was conduced, in this case on the icefield. We've been hired to do a scientific measurement of ambient noise in Juneau, and of noise caused by flightseeing.''

The data derived from the study should give all parties concerned a factual basis to work from, he said.

Juneau's situation is unique, said Paul Dunholder, principal of Bridgenet, the California subcontractor scheduled to perform the field measurements. ``On the federal level, they've done studies, but more for commercial aircraft at airports.''

Bridgenet performed a 1990 noise study at Arizona's Grand Canyon National Park, where flight noise was also an issue, Dunholder said. ``We've also done work for the Forest Service and national parks. But, of course, nobody lives there.''

His company is not trying to determine whether certain noise levels are acceptable, he said. ``What we're trying to do is document levels.''

The study will also consider possible methods for mitigating noise, Dunholder said. These include the adjustment of flight paths and altitude, and other elements of what have become known nationally as ``fly quiet'' programs, similar to Juneau's voluntary compliance program. New, quieter aircraft technologies will also be considered, he said.

``But it's not like Juneau isn't doing a lot already,'' Dunholder said. ``In fact, all the easy food has been picked.''

The planned July 27 public meeting is being organized by subcontractor SWCA, a Utah environmental consulting firm.

SWCA will try to keep the Peace and Quiet Coalition initiative and other tourism-related issues separate from the study, said company spokeswoman Cathryn Collis.

Those conducting the study are looking for public input about where noise monitors might be placed, though the final decision about monitor locations will not be left entirely to the community, Collis said.

``We'll start the meeting with introductions and the establishment of courtesy ground rules,'' she said. ``It's important that people treat one another with respect, that they not interrupt, or boo or cheer or clap.

``Everybody's point of view is born of experience, and one experience is as valid as another,'' she said.

Preliminary results of the testing will be presented at a second meeting, tentatively set for Sept. 21, Campbell said, and a draft final report will be submitted to the city in October.

``There is a great polarization on the noise issue (in Juneau),'' Campbell said. ``And we are not advocating for or against either side of the issue.

``I really hope people will come and participate.''

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