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7/10/2012 11:31:00 AM
Senate passes McCain/Kyl Grand Canyon National Park overflight provision
Future of Grand Canyon National Park's overflight plan addressing noise levels in the park now in question
Photo/WGCN
According to park officials, natural quiet will have been achieved when 50 percent of the park is absent of aircraft noise for 75-100 percent of the day, every day.
Photo/WGCN
According to park officials, natural quiet will have been achieved when 50 percent of the park is absent of aircraft noise for 75-100 percent of the day, every day.
Williams-Grand Canyon News


GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - A provision in the Highway Bill passed in the Senate on June 29 puts on hold Grand Canyon National Park's efforts to increase natural quiet in the park.

An official statement from U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) was then released in reference to this Grand Canyon overflights provision.

"We are pleased with the overflights provision in the conference agreement. It requires air tour operators to install noise reduction equipment and finally settles a protracted debate over what constitutes 'quiet' at Grand Canyon National Park. This legislation also thwarts a recent Obama Administration proposal to ban up to 77 percent of the Park from air tours, which would have killed hundreds of tourism jobs. That plan was deeply flawed and would have severely diminished a unique sightseeing experience.

"Fortunately, this provision ensures that visitors who might otherwise be unable to explore the Grand Canyon, particularly the elderly, disabled, and our nation's wounded warriors, will be able to continue to enjoy the Canyon in one of the most unique ways possible. The stunning beauty of the Grand Canyon should be shared among everyone, not locked away for a small group of activists demanding absolute quiet, everywhere, at all hours."

The draft plan addressing noise impacts at Grand Canyon due to air tour flights issued by the National Park Service aims to restore natural quiet on the ground but allow for increased air traffic above the Canyon.

The plan would allow for 8,000 more flights over the Canyon per year for a total of 65,000 while at the same time moving some routes away from sensitive cultural, natural and visitor areas of the park. The plan would also sets a daily cap of 364 flights over the Canyon per day.

The 1987 National Parks Overflights Act requires an overflight plan. Before the Park Service could move forward, a definition of "natural quiet" needed to be established.

According to park officials, natural quiet will have been achieved when 50 percent of the park is absent of aircraft noise for 75-100 percent of the day, every day.

The plan would move most non-air tour operations outside the park, require air tour operators to convert to quiet technology within 10 years and provide for one hour of air traffic free time after sunrise and before sunset each day.

For many people, the way they will enjoy the Canyon is from above, and that is why park officials have attempted to provide growth opportunities to the air tour industry while still protecting and preserving resources in the park.

While quiet technology will be mandatory after 10 years, there are incentives included in the plan for early adopters, including access to some restricted air routes. Each air tour operator has a certain number of authorizations to fly. An authorization, called an allocation, is necessary for each flight.




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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Article comment by: Tom Smith

This is great news...if the Park Service had their way they would lock up the Canyon and not let anyone who wasn't a Sierra Club member visit it.



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