An April 11, 2017 update from 13th Ward Council Member Linea Palmisano:
There have been a few developments recently related to airport noise. Here’s an update on some issues we’ve been following.
This March, 286 additional homes became eligible for noise mitigation packages. The map above shows the newly eligible blocks outlined in blue. The blocks in green became eligible for mitigation last spring. The 138 homes and 88 apartments that became eligible last spring have been invited to orientation sessions and will have the mitigation work performed in calendar year 2017. The newly eligible blocks will have work performed in 2018. Mitigation tools can include options like central air and new windows. To see if you property is included use the interactive map on MAC’s website. The interactive map will also tell you if your property may be eligible for mitigation in the future. A block must experience average noise in excess of 60 dB DNL for 3 consecutive years before mitigation is available. There are 485 homes that reached their 2nd year in March and 320 homes that are in their 1st year.
The current mitigation program is the result of a renewed legal agreement with MAC in 2013 to provide mitigation if average noise exceeded levels we expected when the noise was forecasted in 2007. If the actual noise exceeds 60 dB DNL for three years in a row, mitigation is provided. If average noise exceeds 63 dB DNL then there is more robust package available.
When we talk about mitigation, I like to be clear that I don’t see mitigation as a solution to the challenge of noise, and it doesn’t mean we are acquiescing to noise. It is a tool that we hope will improve people’s day to day lives. Entering into this agreement does not prevent me from continuing to advocate for every possible tool for noise reduction and management including new flight procedures, quieter planes, and a balanced use of runways
The mitigation program at MSP is very unique. Mitigation is provided based on much lower average noise levels than other communities across the country. The basic standard across the country is that noise must exceed 65 dB DNL whereas locally, it is 60 dB DNL. Also, under the national standard you must also have noise levels inside the house, with the windows closed, that exceeds 45 dB DNL or mitigation is not provided. Those standards do not apply here based on the precedent that has been established through legal agreements. Continuing the mitigation program allowed us to preserve this standard.
Why are homes becoming eligible for mitigation?
The primary reason that the average noise –as produced through a noise modeling system – is higher than we expected compared to the 2007 noise forecast, is due to more flights during the nighttime hours than expected. When we talk about “night” flights we’re actually talking about 10:00 pm to 7:00 am. Flights that arrive or depart during these hours are treated as if they are 10 dB louder for purposes of the noise model. Decibels are a logarithmic unit so an increase of 10 dB actually means 10 times the sound intensity, or twice as loud. It only takes a small number of these flights to make a big impact on average noise. Therefore, the average noise as collected by the Remote Monitoring Towers is different, and lower, than what the model will produce. To provide more context, let’s look at nighttime arrivals on runway 12-right; Over the past five years, the average number of flights during the “night” have been fluctuated between 12 and 18 flights. So, it is not necessarily a huge increase in terms of numbers, but it has a big impact on the model, and it has a big impact on people’s lives. For this reason, night flights are big concern for me.
I’m often asked if we looked at ideas like curfew, or financial penalties or incentives for night flights and the answer is yes, absolutely. However, it is just not possible under current federal law which severely limits what airports can do to “restrict” flights. The only places curfews exist are where they existed prior to the 1991 Act. This is a change that must happen at the national level and Minneapolis continues to be a very active participant trying to influence federal law and regulation. What we have been able to do as members of the Noise Oversight Committee is to contact each airline an ask them to refrain from scheduling fights at night and NOC is planning to develop a program to acknowledge airlines who perform the best (and the worst). In the meantime, we encourage the Control Tower to choose alternative runways at night so planes can avoid going over Minneapolis entirely. This is something they must agree to do voluntarily. The FAA has complete authority over which runways are used and wind will also limit the choices at times.
Trump Administration & Aviation
There are a couple things we are monitoring in Washington. First, President Trump supports privatization of Air Traffic Control. This has been a controversial issue among members of Congress and has faced opposition among both Democrats and Republicans. But, there are also influential supporters of the plan. The City has taken a position against privatization primarily because we do not want the actions of ATC to be further removed from Congressional (public) oversight. We have advocated for years for enhanced collaboration between the FAA and the public in order to ensure that flight tracks are designed in a way that is sensitive to people under them. We also want control tower personnel to be able to collaborate with communities and airports to develop common sense solutions to local problems. We are concerned that privatization would reduce accountability to the public. We have shared our concerns with our U.S. Senators and Congressman Ellison. We are also actively involved in affecting policy as members of the National Organization to Insure a Sound Controlled Environment (N.O.I.S.E).
Another issue we are monitoring is a renewed push to implement NexGen as quickly as possible across the nation; this includes establishing a network of precise flight paths. Many of you will remember when departure flight paths were proposed for MSP and rejected in 2012 because we were concerned about consolidating flight paths. We remain very unique in the nation because we recognized the potential problems in advance and were able to stop implementation. Minneapolis supports NextGen technology and using GPS navigation tools, but we have seen poorly designed flight tracks implemented around the country with bad results. We have been strong advocates that the FAA must change their way of doing business and must engage affected communities when designing flight tracks. We have actually seen the FAA make tremendous strides on this – with a new focus and real resources to enhance community involvement. We hope that the current Administration and Congress will continue to support this approach. In the meantime, Minneapolis has been watching NextGen implementation in other communities to see what lessons can be learned. I can tell you that we’ve all learned a lot and there are options available today that were not available 5 years ago; options that may not require the level of flight track consolidation that was once been proposed. But, it depends on the FAA being collaborative and willing to sensitive to land use. We will encourage them to stay on their current path.
Runway Suspension & Airport Long Term Plan
In the summer of 2015, MAC was nearing the final steps of adopting the 2035 Long Term Comprehensive Plan (LTCP) – a twenty year planning outlook for the airport – when the FAA announced a “runway suspension.” The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board developed new guidelines that applied to specific conditions existing at MSP and some other airports due to runway lay-out. They were concerned that if a plane could not execute a landing on runway 35 and needed to do a “go around,” that the plane would cross the path of planes departing from 30-left. The FAA said that MSP could not use these runways simultaneously and they needed to address the risk. We did not know at the time what the long and short term implications would be – but the suspension represented a pretty big change to how things had been done in the past.
A critical part of the LTCP process is making a good faith estimate of how the runways will be used and developing an estimate of noise impacts. In light of the runway suspension, we asked MAC to put the LTCP on hold until they understood how it would affect air traffic. MAC agreed. As it turns out, almost two years later, the FAA Control Tower has landed on procedures that are fairly similar to those before the suspension. They are utilizing new tools to make sure the NTSB risk is addressed, but without dramatically changing runway use. When the FAA is are done testing and has settled into patterns that they expect to use often, MAC will collect data regarding how the runways are being used so that they can return to the LTCP process and create a map predicting future noise impacts.
We will be keeping a close eye on air traffic patterns in the months ahead and looking for balance in how runways are used. We have continually emphasized with the Control Tower that we do want certain runway used in excess and we do not like either a north-flow (planes arriving over Minneapolis) or south-flow (planes departing over Minneapolis) used excessively. We have been informed that they are aiming for a 50-50 split. In some encouraging news, the Tower is also using a mixed-flow more often which does not put either arrivals or departures over Minneapolis. This can’t be done during high demand times, but the Tower does try to utilize this in the morning before the rush begins, and in the evening. I’ve also seen some improvement to using the Runway Use System – which is designed to avoid putting the loudest planes over the most populated areas (that’s us).
It’s critical to be able to have honest conversations about what to expect from the airport as they plan for the next twenty years, and the public needs good data. When the process resumes we have updated information about expected runway use and potential noise impacts. Again, I’ll be keeping an eye on things as the FAA settles into patterns and I also welcome your observations.
Continue to share your observations
I want to encourage you, as always, to share observations with me or MAC. Complaints made to MAC help all parties, including the City, to identify problems and solutions. I depend on what I hear directly from constituents as my number one source, but also look to the data when I need additional insight. You do not need to make a lot of complaints to be effective. The number of different households complaining usually tells more of a story than the total number of complaints. So, one complaint in a month is enough to make a difference.
Here are some options for sharing concerns:
- Make a complaint by calling the noise hotline 612-726-9411
- Make a complaint or submit a question on the MAC website.
- Attend one of the quarterly Listening Sessions held by MAC. The next session is July 26.
- Contact your MAC Commissioner, Katie Clark Sieben, at Katie.ClarkSieben@mspmac.org
- Contact me – I welcome your observations and comments!
Meet the MAC Commissioner for District C
In January, Governor Dayton appointed Katie Clark Sieben to represent District C of the Metropolitan Airports Commission. District C includes parts of Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Golden Valley, Bloomington, Hopkins and Edina.
Clark Sieben is an Edina resident who served as the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and as Executive Director of the Minnesota Trade Office (MTO). She worked in business development and the private sector, including with Target Corporation. Clark Sieben served as the Director of Community Relations for a startup wind energy developer, National Wind, and as Finance Director for Mark Dayton for a Better Minnesota. Clark Sieben currently serves on the advisory boards for the University of Minnesota Carlson School Global Institute and the University of Minnesota Office for Technology Commercialization.
Commissioner Clark Sieben may be reached at: Katie.ClarkSieben@mspmac.org
Please let us know if you have any questions,
Council Member Linea Palmisano │ 13th Ward │City of Minneapolis