Questions by the South Metro Airport Action Council (SMAAC), the oldest citizen's organization around Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) airport, at public hearings last Fall were not well received or were not fully answered by the Metro Airports Commission (MAC) Staff. MAC's written reply stated that a Part 150 Plan revision has yet to be considered by the Planning and Environment Committee and will not be finalized until April 2003 at the earliest.
SMAAC President Jim Spensley said "SMAAC considers this a fairly serious problem, because the 2003 budget includes funding for noise mitigation." Noise mitigation is the Sound Insulation Program (SIP) that treats buildings near the airport to reduce aircraft noise inside. "We saw funds for the SIP, air pollution, and other environmental projects drastically cut in 2002. Now there is a large discrepancy, at least in schedule, perhaps in scope, compared to the current Part 150 Plan."
Reductions in the Sound Insulation Program budget were not reasonable, according to SMAAC, because the SIP funds should be proportional to airport use. In the aftermath of September 11, use was reduced 20% due to lack of demand. To compensate, MAC cut its 2002budget by 80%. After use of MSP returned to pre-9/11 levels, MAC staff proposed a larger than 2002 but smaller than 2001, SIP budget.
"It seems to me that either the CIP budget for 2003 SIP work or the Part 150 Plan revision may be moot." Spensley said. "The current plan, approved in 1996, covers the period 1996 [base year] to 2001[target year]. MAC staff says the Legislature mandated completion of a SIP for that period." The Part 150 Plan Update addresses MSP operations in the year 2005 and is expected to project reduced noise from the main (parallel) runways. While millions have been spent insulating homes and schools, hundreds of SIP-eligible homes remain untreated. Thousands more presumably will become eligible because new runway 17-35 will expose new areas to noise. Although $150 million has been allocated for a "supplementary" SIP in the Southwest Minneapolis area, it unclear if noise experienced there before runway 17-35 is completed (2001 to 2004) or due to differences in actual use of the parallels thereafter, compared to projected use, will be considered.
Use of MSP since 1996 exceeded the Part 150 projection for 2001, and several others &Mac246; especially fleet mix and runway use &Mac246; mean the old plan and program were insufficient, according to SMAAC. The citizens' group posed nine questions during the public hearing. "We need to compare projected use and actual use of MSP, runway by runway, between 1996 and 2001 or 2003 to comment on the proposed update." Spensley said. "We need to understand the process MAC used or will use to predict use and noise distribution and estimate mitigation costs. Projections drive the computer model that draws the 65 DNL contours, and it's impossible to comment on the plan or the budget without this knowledge." SMAAC is in contact with MAC staff to clarify their answers. "We think MAC's claims about the accuracy of the Integrated Noise Model (used to draw the contours) and the integrity of the Part 150 Plan process are exaggerated." Spensley said. "We don't see how the neighbor's interests &Mac246; or those of the public in general &Mac246; can be protected. Anyone can see that Northwest hopes to pay less for noise mitigation and other fees, regardless of need. The airlines sit on NOC, but as we understand it, airline fleet mix and schedules are not available for review as input to MAC or as perhaps revised for use in the model."