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Newport council members report back on D.C. advocacy trips for airport issues

Newport council members report back on D.C. advocacy trips for airport issues
A commercial airplane flies over homes along Upper Newport Bay in Newport Beach after taking off from John Wayne Airport. (File Photo)

A contingent of Newport Beach City Council members recently visited Washington, D.C., to monitor progress of the legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration — which they said can impact how noise and environmental pollution impact Newport residents closest to John Wayne Airport’s takeoff path.

Diane Dixon and Kevin Muldoon, who made the trip to meet with delegates and see the omnibus bill debated in the Senate last week, updated the full council and residents Tuesday on their efforts to bring Newport’s chronic concerns with the airport to the attention of national lawmakers.

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In addition to giving the FAA continued legal authority to act as the nation’s aviation safety agency, the bill, which is awaiting a Senate vote, requires the FAA to work with communities in evaluating “perceived and actual noise — that’s important — and its impact on quality of life issues, including health, environmental and economic impacts,” Dixon said.

Those health issues can include sleep disturbance and blood pressure, she said.

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Dixon said the bill also establishes a regional ombudsman to work with the public and would potentially phase out older, louder plane models.

She said the city is pitching the city’s interest as nonpartisan and emphasizing health and safety.

Dixon and Muldoon, along with Councilman Jeff Herdman, also visited Washington in April to see the re-authorization bill debated in the House.

Muldoon said he was pessimistic after the first visit but more upbeat after the Sept. 17-18 meetings. He attributed his optimism to bipartisan interest.

“What it does is opens the door for conversations with airlines and allows flexibility for the FAA to consider more than just straight lines and efficiency,” he said.

Herdman, who is also a member of Newport’s aviation committee, said city consultant Harris Miller Miller & Hanson collected noise data from October to January that can be parsed by plane and engine type and load. The data came in last week.

He said he is encouraged by the city’s work.

“The community’s been waiting,” he said. “They’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting, and they’ve been very patient.”

Also last week, Newport’s contracted airport consultant, city manager and representatives from the three local airport activist groups met with representatives from five of JWA’s passenger carriers — Alaska, American, Delta, Southwest and United — to discuss noise and pollution.

City Manager Grace Leung said solutions will be data-driven and for the short- and long-term.

“It was a very good, positive, strong start,” she said of the Sept. 20 meeting.

Leung said the city will continue meeting with carriers, with the next summit possibly in January.

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