Noise initiative fizzles

Posted: Wednesday, October 04, 2000

The flightseeing noise abatement initiative went down in flames Tuesday night.

Although Proposition 5 lost by a more than 2-1 margin, initiative supporters say they'll be back. And so will Friends of Aviation, the tour-industry group that helped bring down the initiative.

Voters were asked whether they wanted the city to ask the U.S. Forest Service to reduce Juneau Icefield helicopter landings; enact municipal regulation of tourist flight schedules; restrict construction of new heliports; and prohibit city research into new heliports.

A resounding 7,192 out of 10,348 voters said no.

"We were terribly outspent," said Ray Preston, a member of the Peace and Quiet Coalition, the group that fielded the initiative. "And some scare tactics were involved."

Friends of Aviation members distributed information during the campaign warning of possible severe cutbacks in operations if the initiative were approved.

"The issue is not going to go away, because the problem is not going to go away," Preston said.

Current mediation efforts and a noise study being conducted by the city would not have come about without the existence of the initiative, he said. "Peace and Quiet is going to continue as an organization."

Friends of Aviation spokeswoman Lorene Kappler said members of the group weren't surprised at the outcome. "The operators are glad to see the community saw that Proposition 5 was not reasonable."

Tour operators also recognize that work remains to be done, she said. "I don't see them changing course at all. They'll continue to work with the communities. The proposition just sidelined the issue a little."

The city and the Forest Service initiated a mediation process that will have its first major meeting in mid-October, Kappler said. "The next official step is to work with the mediator and then see where that takes us."

Operators this year have worked at being quieter, said Kim Metcalfe-Helmar, an initiative supporter and tour-industry critic. "But it won't get any quieter."

It's possible Peace and Quiet could field another initiative next year, she said, one that might limit itself to asking the Forest Service to cut back on its Juneau Icefield helicopter landing permits.

"This is just like the passenger fee," she said. "We'll be back."

A first try at getting a $7 fee per passenger from cruise lines failed at the polls and was followed in 1999 with the successful $5 passenger fee initiative.

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