The South Metro Airport Action Committee and neighbors of MSP were rebuffed by the Noise Oversight Committee (NOC) when it did not follow a suggestion by Chad Leqve, its staff Technical Advisor, to schedule the next NOC meeting after a public meeting with MAC’s noise plan consultant. Instead, NOC set its meeting a week earlier, and left open whether or not members of the public would be allowed to speak.
SMAAC’s President, Jim Spensley, said that he meet briefly with MAC Chair Vicki Grunseth, and she suggested a technical question and answer session July 22, when a quarterly public information meeting is scheduled. “At the time,” Spensley said, “Chair Grunseth and I thought NOC would not take up the flight projection assumptions until July 23, so as to benefit from the session.”
Spensley said he was puzzled why a municipal representative, unfamiliar with the details of drawing a new noise exposure (contour) map, thought a question and answer session wouldn’t be valuable. “Perhaps Mr. Vitelli believes, as many do, that MAC is going to push a plan through anyway.” Spensley remarked. “It is not clear if MAC will even receive -- much less consider -- NOC or public comments on the flight-use assumptions. At MAC’s August meeting, the June recommendation by the P&E Committee will appear on the consent agenda and can be adopted without discussion.”
History. Although MAC has several times started to update the MSP Noise Control Plan, in 1998, 2001, and 2002 for example, the most recent update was initiated at the March 2003 meeting. A consultant, HNTB, was selected, and five assumptions leading to year 2007 flight-use were announced May 22. MAC and the consultant also published a schedule giving May 22 as the first, and only, public review meeting.
May 22. SMAAC delivered a letter to MAC asking for more formal hearings so that comments by the impacted neighbors and airport users could be considered in preparing flight-use assumptions.
June 5. During its June 5th meeting, the MAC Planning and Environment Committee moved the staff report along to the full commission, although P&E Chair Houle suggested action there might be “tabled to allow more public discussions”.
June 7. The P&E recommended assumptions appear on the consent agenda for adoption without discussion. Commissioner Boivin, however, moves to table the item until the August Commission meeting that passed.. SMAAC addressed the Commission and asked if its May 22 letter had been received and passed out a list of questions about the flight-use assumptions.
What about noise before 2007? A new plan could put continuation of current noise mitigation activities – such as a modified plan for “64-60 DNL” areas – in doubt. MAC has based SIP eligibility on assumptions and airline projections made before 1994.
Noise mitigation, the Sound Insulation Program, was limited to the areas projected for 1996 use, but SMAAC contends SIP eligibility should have been based on an update using 1996 actual noise as a base and 2001 as a “target”.
“The rights of people who were, or may be, directly affected by airport noise and other pollution are closely tied to MAC’s operational plans and projections.” Spensley said. “Our questions about the assumptions arise from observing actual operations at MSP and comparing them to the 1994 Noise Control Plan assumptions.
MAC projected that noise would be somewhat abated by the airlines -- retiring the noisiest aircraft, reducing night operations, and using larger airliners to reduce operations compared to passenger demand. MAC’s plan also projected far fewer flights than actually occurred; passenger demand increased nationally (connecting flights) and locally.
MSP expansion allowed more flights using the parallel runways, attaining hourly and daily use rates originally associated with the new runway. “I predicted this rate increase in 1996,” Spensley said “and showed that 25% increased use of MSP would be possible. Inadequate findings then -- about runway use and fleet mix and noise abatement procedures -- led MAC to delay, misrepresent, or evade aspects of its Noise Control Plan because of mitigation costs.”