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Opinion

San Diego Airport expansion and airplane-noise update: December 2019

Many La Jollans say changes in flight paths have casued increases in airplane noise in several La Jolla neighborhoods. Pictured is a Southwest Airlines 737 passing over Bankers Hill en route to San Diego International Airport.
Many La Jollans say changes in flight paths have casued increases in airplane noise in several La Jolla neighborhoods. Pictured is a Southwest Airlines 737 passing over Bankers Hill en route to San Diego International Airport.
(Photo by Howard Lipin)

Opinion / Guest Commentary / Our Readers Write:

There will be two upcoming public meetings about commercial jet noise and the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority’s (SDCRAA) new Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for three additional 1-million gallon fuel tanks.

1) The Airport Noise Advisory Meeting (ANAC) runs 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019 at the Airport Holiday Inn, 4875 N. Harbor Drive. Please come prepared with a 2-3-minute public comment to make at the end of the meeting, and/or merely to support those who do speak. Strong community input is a factor at ANAC.

2) An informational update meeting is set for 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29 at the public library, 4155 Governor Drive. Members of Quiet Skies La Jolla, Inc. (QSLJ) will attend both.

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On Nov. 20, the Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) met to be briefed on the Part 150 Study, which will analyze all noise issues impacting the 65 CNEL noise contour around the airport. Of course, the noise does not end at the contour boundary and any changes that come from the 150 Study may inure to La Jolla’s benefit.

A SDCRAA consultant confirmed that the FAA and SDCRAA project will “push departures and landings into earlier and later hours,” which explains why the contour size gets larger by the year 2026 as the proposed airport expansion project is implemented. That means more jet early morning and late night “rush hour traffic” to use SDCRAA’s proposed additional “Remain Overnight” jet parking places and airport capacity.

Discussion ensued about the curfew at SDIA, between 11:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. The curfew in San Diego is grandfathered into practice and very few airports in the country have one. According to SDCRAA’s consultant, SDCRAA rather than the FAA, has jurisdiction over the curfew, which means the FAA may not unilaterally declare a change. However, any proposal to change the curfew would trigger a “Part 161” FAA study, which could result in the abolishment or modification of the curfew. The curfew, which is defined and memorialized in Section 9.40 of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority Code, is crucial to all San Diego communities around the airport and should be preserved.

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New DEIR for three new 1M Gallon Fuel Tanks

QSLJ filed a response this week to the new supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Report released by the SDCRAA on Nov. 5 describing three new 1-million gallon fuel tanks to be added to the two existing tanks at the fuel farm on the northeast quadrant of the airport, tripling the airport’s jet fuel capacity. QSLJ’s response can be found at quietskieslajolla.org/legal-proceedings

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The additional tanks and fuel capacity may be a direct proxy for increased flight operations and noise. SDCRAA’s Supplemental DEIR can be found on the San Diego International Airport website at bit.ly/airportplanning

Written public comments are due by Dec. 20, 2019 to planning@san.org, attention Ted Anasis. They should note the relationship between increased fuel capacity supporting more flights that cause more noise and health issues. You may consider advocating that the noise mitigation measures being considered in the Part 150 and Flight Path and Procedures studies funded by the SDCRAA and FAA, and the required health studies, be completed before work begins on tripling SDIA’s fuel capacity.

QSLJ also filed a response to the Airport Development Plan (ADP) Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on Nov. 4, which can be found at quietskieslajolla.org/legal-proceedings

SDCRAA’s ADP EIR admits that the ADP will cause “significant and unavoidable harm” to human health, including increased onset of cancer, stress, sleep disturbances, cardiac events, metabolic disease and cognitive processing and learning disabilities.

QSLJ’s response is co-authored by Matthew J. Price, MD, Scripps Clinic, Division of Cardiology, and supported by peer-reviewed medical studies demonstrating a significant association between jet noise and cardiovascular health. The analysis notes aircraft noise, particularly at night, stimulates adrenaline release and impairs endothelial function, which is key in the development of cardiovascular disease, regardless of whether the patient feels annoyed by jet noise or not.

The response also points out Congress’ order in the FAA Reauthorization Bill of 2018 that requires SDIA study the human health issues as a condition of its funding re-authorization.

QSLJ’s response further points out there should be no rush to approve the ADP, since the Part 150 jet noise and Flight Path & Procedures studies are in progress and should be completed by early 2021. Those studies should result in recommended changes to mitigate noise, like flying westbound departures farther west over the ocean before turning north or south, mitigating noise in all of San Diego’s affected coastal communities. The response says SDCRAA has it backwards: The human health studies and noise mitigation measures must occur and be implemented before the ADP project moves forward and harm to human health becomes irreparable.


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