Airport noise: Federal Way pressures Port of Seattle

Federal Way has aired its grievances with the Port of Seattle and the Federal Aviation Administration once more. Mayor Skip Priest presented his case to Port representatives Aug. 22 regarding airline noise issues that parts of Federal Way experience daily.

The issue has been ongoing for years. Federal Way residents, especially in the Marine Hills neighborhood, feel that the SeaTac International Airport’s comings and goings are an intense detractor to their quality of life. One significant concern over flight noise includes EVA airlines, which has flights that take off from SeaTac, often after midnight.

“The airport noise impacts to Federal Way have a considerable effect on people’s ability to enjoy their homes,” Priest said in a press release from the city. “The good news is that there are clear steps the Port can and should take to help reduce those impacts.”

Alleviate the noise

The Aug. 22 meeting was a roundtable discussion that also included the mayors of SeaTac, Tukwila, Normandy Park, Burien and Des Moines. The local leaders were gathered to talk about the Port of Seattle’s Part 150 Noise Study.

The study has been put together over recent years and is expected to be finalized in early 2012.

Priest outlined three steps the city feels the Port of Seattle and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) can take to alleviate noise issues in Federal Way.

The first is for the Port and FAA to study noise impacts in Federal Way. According to the city, the “Port has excluded the city from the noise program boundary and the Port has not analyzed data it collects from Federal Way-area noise monitoring stations. Without reliable data about noise impacts affecting Federal Way residents, the Port has no basis to address those impacts.”

The second avenue the Port could pursue would be to “aggressively pursue additional FAA mitigation dollars for Federal Way.” Mitigation dollars are funds distributed by the FAA to airport communities to help soundproof homes and other various noise-abating measures.

Airplane noise means “residents are unable to carry on conversations when planes pass overhead, and are being awakened at night by passing planes,” according to the city. “The impacts to Federal Way residents are real and the Port can help city residents by seeking mitigation funding.”

Finally, the city wants the Port to pursue a “Continuous Descent Approach” system. The system uses GPS technology to “land planes on a smooth glide approach, which can reduce fuel use, emissions and noise.”

Marine Hills neighborhood

Federal Way councilwoman Linda Kochmar has been a long-standing advocate for Federal Way residents when it comes to this issue. In a recent letter addressed to U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, Kochmar described the issues Federal Way faces from flights approaching and leaving SeaTac.

“The neighborhoods in and around Marine Hills, along the Puget Sound shoreline, are experiencing significant flight traffic and noise,” she wrote. “It appears, however, that many flights are being allowed to make their turns earlier than the outer flight markers, bringing them directly over the Marine Hills neighborhood.”

Kochmar said that many residents in Marine Hills feel like they’re forced to stay inside their homes: “This has an incredible impact on our residents. Homeowners have told me that they avoid going outside when planes fly overhead, and that they can’t even hold a phone conversation at such times. When planes fly over the neighborhood during the night and early morning, residents are awakened from sleep.”

During a June 28 meeting held in Federal Way, Marine Hills architectural control committee chairman Fred Konkell gave testimony to Port commissioners regarding the swirling issue of noise and flight effects in Federal Way.

“Last night, between 7 and 8 in the evening, I was out doing some gardening,” he said. “It seemed like there were seven airplanes that come out of the third runway. Five of them were (Boeing) 737s or A320 Airbuses. They all turned short of 320th (Street)... There were several of them that were closer to the airport than what would be the normal fly out.”

During that same meeting, Konkell said he felt that residents in Federal Way, and all communities affected by SeaTac, may have been duped by the Port and FAA when it came to the third runway that opened in November 2008.

“The sad thing is, you sold the third runway as a commuter runway. I don’t know what your terminology is for a commuter runway, but 737s, airplanes like that, to me, should be flying out on (runways one and two) going out. You don’t necessarily follow that when they’re flying out of the airport.”

Konkell said residents of Marine Hills are “always interested in how you affect us.”


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