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Contact: Maureen Oltrogge, 928-638-7779
Grand Canyon, Ariz. – The National Park Service (NPS) will hold three open house style public meetings, one in Phoenix, AZ, one in Flagstaff, AZ and one in Henderson, NV to discuss a draft plan to address the impacts of aircraft noise on park resources and visitor experience. Released by the NPS in February 2011, the plan is formally called a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), Special Flight Rules Area in the Vicinity of Grand Canyon National Park. The document is available for public review and comment through June 20, 2011.
Meetings will be held in Phoenix, AZ; Flagstaff, AZ; and Henderson, NV. The public is encouraged to attend any of the public meetings to learn more about the Draft EIS, ask questions of park staff and submit comments. Meeting dates and locations are as follows:
Wednesday, April 6, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (Arizona Time) – Embassy Suites Phoenix Biltmore, Junior Ballroom, 2630 East Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ
Thursday, April 7, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. (Arizona Time) – High Country Conference Center, 1899 Room, 201 West Butler Avenue, Flagstaff, AZ
Thursday, April 14, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. (Nevada Time) – Wingate by Wyndham, Wingate Ballroom, 3041 Saint Rose Parkway, Henderson, NV
Through the Draft EIS, the NPS is proposing a plan for managing helicopter and airplane tour flights over Grand Canyon National Park. These flights currently carry more than 400,000 visitors above the canyon each year. Like all other uses in the park, air-tours play an important role in visitor enjoyment. But without better, more thoughtful management, air-tour flights can interfere with the enjoyment of visitors on the ground. Air-tour flights also affect the soundscape and other park resources of Grand Canyon's 1,902 square miles.
Four alternatives are evaluated in the Draft EIS including a no-action alternative and three action alternatives, including the NPS Preferred Alternative. All alternatives apply to aircraft operating in Grand Canyon's Special Flight Rules Area, and would continue to exempt operations in support of the Hualapai Tribe from annual allocations and daily caps.
Key provisions of the NPS Preferred Alternative include:
- Increasing restoration of natural quiet in the park from 53% to 67%, by reducing aircraft noise in the park.
- Allowing for 65,000 air-tour and air-tour related operations annually (8,000 more air-tour flights above what was reported by air tour operators).
- Provides long and short loop air-tour routes, with a seasonal shift in short routes at six month intervals.
- Moves most non air-tour operations outside of the park.
- Moves routes away from many sensitive cultural, natural and visitor use areas.
- Sets a daily cap of 364 flights classified as air tours (50 air-tour flights more than what was reported for a peak day in 2005 – the base year for analysis in the Draft EIS).
- Increases flight altitudes near North Rim viewpoints.
- Reduces routes in Marble Canyon.
- Requires full conversion to quiet technology, also known as QT aircraft, within 10 years.
- Provides at least one hour of quiet time before sunset and after sunrise every day.
- Makes no changes to the four existing general aviation flight corridors.
- Raises flight free zone ceilings to 17,999 feet.
"We are now asking for the public's input on this important Draft EIS", stated Jane Lyder, Acting Superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park. She added, "Results of this planning process will guide future management of air-tour flights in the vicinity of Grand Canyon National Park. We appreciate the public's interest in this and other issues facing the park, as public involvement is integral in achieving the best plan."
The Draft EIS can be found online at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/grca by clicking on the project name, and then scrolling to "Open for Public Comments."
Written comments can be submitted online at the same Web address (the preferred method), mailed to Superintendent, Grand Canyon National Park, Attention: Office of Planning and Compliance, P.O. Box 129, Grand Canyon, Arizona 86023, or provided at one of the public meetings. Comments will be accepted through June 20, 2011.
After reviewing comments, the next step will be to release a Final EIS leading to a Record of Decision. The NPS will respond to substantive comments in the Final EIS.