By LESLIE DAIGLE
With due respect to other issues of the day — the most important thing the Newport Beach City Council has done in the past, continues to do and must do in the future is to prevent the physical expansion of John Wayne Airport (JWA), while preserving the JWA Settlement Agreement and the existing noise curfew.
The addition of a second commercial jet runway or a change in the noise curfew would directly damage the quality of life of more than 80,000 Newport Beach residents and indirectly impact everyone in this city. The City Council and the community have long recognized “airport impacts are now, and will continue to be, the most significant threat to the quality of life of Newport Beach residents” (City Council Airport Policy A-17).
That is why, for the last 30 years, the city, and community groups concerned about JWA have developed and implemented strategies to control JWA impacts and to protect your quality of life. The city and community groups have achieved considerable success — primarily through the JWA Settlement Agreement — in controlling JWA impacts by understanding, and working within, the complex legal, economic and political factors that are relevant to airport operations and aviation industry. Orange County as the airport owner and operator has cooperated with the city in controlling JWA impacts over the last 22 years and, according to all of the aviation experts, this collaborative effort has made JWA the most “noise restricted” airport in the nation.
The agreement is the primary vehicle by which the city exercises control over airport impacts. It restricts passenger service levels at 10.3 million annual passengers (MAP) until 2010 and 10.8 MAP thereafter. Average daily departures (ADD) of noise restricted aircraft is limited to 55 ADD. A maximum of 20 loading bridges is allowed.
There are no longer restrictions on the size of the terminal or number of permitted parking spaces. The number of aircraft that can remain overnight (RON) remains the same. RON is a key factor in the number of early morning departures. The number of airport departures determines the amount of noise generated by the operations and is controlled by agreement. The noise curfew is in effect from 10 p.m. (landings) until 7 a.m. (departures).
Recognizing the importance of the issue and to ensure JWA continues to be the most noise restricted airport in the nation, the City Council adopted the comprehensive “Airport Policy.” The policy was developed with input from the Citizens Aviation Committee, the Airport Working Group (AWG) and AirFair – each group composed of Newport Beach residents with special airport expertise who have collectively devoted thousands of hours to the effort to control JWA. The key provisions of the Airport Policy were incorporated into the updated General Plan approved by the voters in November 2006. The Airport Policy gives the City Council, city staff, AWG and AirFair a strategic blueprint that will allow us to work together to control JWA impacts.
One of the key components of the policy, and our primary focus at this time, is to strengthen our relationship with the other cities impacted by JWA — the corridor cities of Costa Mesa, Anaheim, Tustin, Orange and Santa Ana — to increase our collective political power. Newport Beach learned during the effort to convert MCAS El Toro to a commercial airport that no matter how much we spend or how valid our arguments Newport Beach acting alone won’t have as much influence over decisions outside of our borders as we would if we worked in concert with other cities. The county has been a great steward of JWA but decisions on the number of and times of flights, and passenger service levels can be impacted by the Orange County business community, the Southern California region, the aviation industry, the Federal Aviation Administration and Congress. The airport policy recognizes these are powerful forces and Newport Beach needs to form a strong bond with the corridor cities and other communities in an effort to gain political power.
As part of our effort to strengthen the coalition of corridor cities, the Council was the first to adopt a JWA “position statement” tha,t like the airport policy, was developed with input from the Citizens Aviation Committee, AWG and AirFair. This position statement mirrors the airport policy by expressing unequivocal opposition to a second commercial runway, any change in the noise curfew and any attempt by other public agencies to take control of JWA. The position statement supports the concept of planning and implementing proposals that enable Orange County residents and businesses to conveniently access underused out-of-county airports using air passenger rail links.
The Council has also commissioned a study of the JWA standard instrument departure procedure for commercial aircraft. We are not proposing any change to the procedure. However, the Citizens Aviation Committee needs accurate information about the current procedure and the factors the FAA would have to consider if it were to propose changes. The FAA has, most recently in Las Vegas, taken action to modify procedures that could impact thousands of residents near McCarran Airport and we want to be equipped with the information we would need if that were to happen here.
Finally, the policy directs the Council to continue to work in cooperation with community-based groups who share our mission to protect residents from JWA impacts. We are partners with two community groups, AWG and AirFair that have specialized knowledge and experience that have been and will continue to be invaluable to our collective effort to control JWA. Members of our City Council and staff are meeting with these groups on a regular basis to share information and strategies and work cooperatively for the good of our residents. I encourage you to consider membership in one or both of these community-based groups and please visit the city’s website to get more information on this critical issue.
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