Opinion: San Diego airport expansion/jet noise update for November 2019


Opinion / Guest Commentary / Our Readers Write:

This update covers two things: 1) the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority’s (SDCRAA) “Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report” (DEIR) addressing the proposed $3 billion Airport Development Project (ADP) and its impact on commercial jet noise and 2) a new DEIR for three additional 1 million gallon fuel tanks.

Notices: A public workshop is set for 4-7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019 at the Airport Noise Authority Office, 2722 Truxtan Road in Liberty Station, addressing the noise issues associated with the airport. Please come prepared with a 2-minute statement of your views. Second, a response date of Friday, Dec. 20, 2019 was set by the SDCRAA for comments on a new DEIR, paving the way for a tripling in jet fuel capacity at SDIA.

The new DEIR: A new supplemental DEIR was released by SDCRAA Nov. 5, describing three new 1 million gallon fuel tanks to be added to the two existing tanks at the fuel farm on the northeast quadrant of the airport. The airport burns approximately 1 million gallons of jet fuel per day, and the additional tanks will allow the airport to keep a six-day supply on hand. The additional tanks and fuel capacity are also a direct proxy for increased flight operations, and the associated increase in flight frequency and noise in the community.

Tripling fuel capacity will supply the anticipated additional flights, forecast to soon depart and land daily under the ADP’s plan, to add 11 new gates and an undefined number of “Remain Overnight” jet parking places. While there are legitimate reasons for improving the airport’s fuel security, the extra capacity also matches SDCRAA’s plan to reach maximum flight operation capacity at the airport as soon as possible.

The new DEIR can be found at and comments are due by Dec. 20, 2019. Please submit a comment to, attention Ted Anasis, noting the relationship to the capacity and noise issues, and advocating that noise mitigation measures and the required health studies be completed before work begins on tripling the airport’s fuel capacity.

Response to the Airport Development Plan DEIR: Quiet Skies La Jolla filed its response to the ADP DEIR Nov. 4. The statement can be found at SDCRAA concedes ADP project implementation would cause a 3 decibel or more increase in noise sensitive areas starting as early as 2024, due to a substantial increase in flight operations from the current average of 40 flights per hour to an average of 50 per hour. That means La Jolla, where noise levels have been around 40-45 decibels, will be substantially impacted.

The additional jet “Remain Overnight” parking places guarantee an equal number of new departing flights in the 6:30-9 a.m. window, and many more late arrivals, as there is no curfew for arrivals. SDCRAA’s ADP DEIR also reveals that “implementation of the proposed project would cause a substantial increase in the number of night-time flight operations that produce Sound Exposure Levels (SELs) sufficient to awaken an increasing population starting in 2024, which would be significant and unavoidable.”

Quiet Skies La Jolla’s statement in response to the ADP DEIR notes the “significant and unavoidable harm” to human health SDCRAA says the ADP will cause, including increased onset of cancer, stress, sleep disturbances, cardiac events, metabolic disease and cognitive processing and learning disabilities. We also point out Congress’ order in the FAA Reauthorization Bill of 2018 that requires SDIA to study the human health issues as a condition of its funding reauthorization. The response notes SDCRAA declares the human health studies “too speculative” to study in connection with the ADP. We further said the cardiology, stress, sleep and other human health studies must be conducted and completed before the ADP is approved, and before the harm to human health is irreparable.

Quiet Skies La Jolla’s statement opposing the SDCRAA’s ADP DEIR is co-authored by Matthew J. Price, MD, Scripps Clinic, Division of Cardiology, and supported by peer reviewed medical studies demonstrating a strong and significant association between jet noise and cardiovascular health. Our analysis notes aircraft noise, particularly at night, stimulates adrenaline release and impairs endothelial function, which is key in the development of cardiovascular disease, regardless of whether the patient feels annoyed by jet noise or not.

The Quiet Skies La Jolla statement points out there should be no rush to approve the ADP, since the Part 150 jet noise and parallel flight path and procedures studies are in progress and address the noise issues and should be completed by early 2021. SDCRAA ignores these studies in its rush to build out and supplement the airport gates, overnight jet parking places, new offices, new restaurants and facilities.

The correct order should be 1) assess and implement all proposals to materially mitigate jet noise; 2) gather and assess the medical evidence regarding the health, sleep, and cognitive risks of the ADP; and 3) only after steps 1 and 2, then consider whether to expand the airport operations and the associated noise visited on the community.

Please plan to attend the Nov. 21 public workshop, prepared to voice your opinions in a 1-2 minute prepared statement. This is the community’s chance to make its views known. We look forward to seeing you there and appreciate the community’s support.


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