An alternate heliport study prepared for the city recommends local helicopter companies move flightseeing operations to Montana Creek in the Mendenhall Valley and Dupont, south of Thane.
The city hired engineering firm Michael Baker Jr. Inc. this summer to evaluate and recommend alternate heliport sites in an effort to reduce flightseeing noise. In a report released today, two sites are recommended one south of downtown at Dupont and one north of downtown at Montana Creek.
The analysis was based on the presumption that all helicopter flightseeing would move to the new heliports, although helicopter companies still would use their current bases for other flights, according to senior environmental manager McKie Campbell of Michael Baker Jr. Inc. Currently, Juneau's four helicopter companies fly from sites near the Juneau Airport and North Douglas.
The Montana Creek site would be past the rifle range on the other side of a foot bridge crossing the creek, Campbell said. The city could acquire the property from the state, he added.
The Dupont site would be a mile and a half from the end of Thane Road on private land. The land in between is owned by the Alaska Mental Health Land Trust. The flightseeing companies could shuttle passengers by boat or by bus if Thane Road is extended, Campbell said.
Moving northbound helicopter operations to Montana Creek would reduce the number of homes under the flight paths from 2,260 to none, according to the study. Moving southbound flights to Dupont would reduce the number of homes under flight paths from 3,777 to zero.
Campbell cautioned the changes still would allow helicopter noise to be audible at homes. Noise levels would decrease although the frequency of flights might increase in some areas, according to the study.
"People will still hear helicopters," Campbell said.
In the Montana Creek area, noise monitoring and test flights were conducted at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, the Juneau Community Garden, Gladstone Street and the Mendenhall Campground. Near Dupont, consultants monitored noise at Sandy Beach, Sheep Creek, the end of Thane Road and Lucky Me, an area with 10 cabins on Douglas Island.
The city also asked the consultants to consider moving floatplane operations to the floatplane pond at the airport, but Campbell said the study found that the change would make things worse and add to security and access problems.
However, the study suggests the Dupont site would be a good place to base floatplane flights for noise, safety and economic reasons.
"I would virtually eliminate flightseeing noise downtown," he said.
Starting with a list of 20 areas in Juneau in May, the consultants looked hard at 17, some with multiple spots that could have been heliports, Campbell said. In addition to Dupont and Montana Creek, sites at Sheep Creek and the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center made it through the final stage of screening.
"We had a series of screening criteria, but the most important thing we looked at was noise," he said.
In addition to considering how the new heliports could affect noise at residences, trails and the glacier visitor center, the consultants looked at possible conflicts with future growth patterns, traffic, economics, site acquisition, development costs and flight safety, Campbell said.
The consultants have been working with city officials on the draft report this month and were scheduled to meet with flightseeing operators this afternoon to discuss the results.
A public meeting about the study will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Centennial Hall. The report is scheduled to be posted on the city's Web site this afternoon at www.juneau.lib.ak.us/.
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