Powell seeks `moderate majority' on flightseeing

Non-extreme voices sought as next phase of partnership begins

Posted: Sunday, July 23, 2000

Juneau Assembly member Jim Powell is calling for a ``moderate majority'' to make its voice heard above all the din surrounding flightseeing and its critics.

``What we see in the paper is the extreme points of view,'' Powell said at an assembly Planning and Policy meeting Friday. ``We need to work more on moderate solutions and to hear from the moderate majority. Right now, I'm not hearing a lot of reasonableness.''

Powell's call for temperance came in conjunction with the committee's approval of a $20,000 expenditure for Phase II of a Forest Service and city partnership that establishes a negotiating team among those interested in and affected by flightseeing noise.

The plan is to include representatives from the Forest Service, the city, citizens' groups, flight operators and cruise ship operators on the negotiating team.

Phase I occurred in May when the assembly paid $4,000 to a Seattle consultant to try to figure out whether flightseeing operators and noise critics could even talk to each other.

Environmental mediation firm Triangle Associates consultant Lois Schwennesen interviewed 11 citizens representing Citizens for Peace and Quiet, Cruise Control, neighborhood associations and other groups; individuals from four environmental groups, including Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, the Sierra Club and the Alaska Conservation Society; representatives of four of the five helicopter and floatplane companies, and a member of the Airport Board; and six people representing the Forest Service and the city.

During those interviews, ``it sounded to a certain degree like there was common ground,'' said Northstar Trekking President Bob Engelbrecht. Northstar is a helicopter tour company.

``I think it's worth a try. I think a lot of people do fall in the moderate range on the issues,'' he said.

Schwennesen concluded that all parties except the environmental groups were willing to go on to Phase II - that is, putting the negotiating process together ``with an opportunity for a go/no go decision in the fall,'' to begin actual negotiations.

``Environmental representatives did not close the door on jointly working with the other parties on next steps,'' Schwennesen wrote in her report to the city manager. ``It appears they will want to be involved in designing the process, framing the issues, and participating in developing the common base of information before deciding.''

For its part, the Forest Service will ante up $25,000 for Phase II, said District Ranger Pete Griffin. Data from the flightseeing noise study that starts Thursday and from the negotiating process will be considered in the determinations of the Environmental Impact Statement the Forest Service is currently preparing, Griffin said.

That EIS will determine how many helicopters will be permitted to land -- and under what conditions -- on glaciers on Forest Service land. A draft EIS is due out in December.

Phase II is slated to run through August and September. Actual negotiations will begin after the Oct. 3 municipal election and extend through March or April of 2001.

The city's $100,000 study of how much noise there is in Juneau -- with and without flightseeing aircraft -- is set to start Thursday with a public meeting from 7-9 p.m. at Centennial Hall.

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