Truckee Airport Noisy Private Jets Disturb Tahoe Wildlife
A News Commentary by Ted Lipien, Eco Truckee Tahoe – EcoTruckee.org
We have been aware for a long time of the negative impact of low-flying private jets from the Truckee airport on Truckee – Tahoe – Donner neighborhoods and quality of life of local residents. We recently observed a loud private jet flying fairly low over Lake Tahoe and many planes flying over Donner Lake. But as we were going for an evening hike tonight (Sunday, August 2, 2015) near Prosser Creek Reservoir, we had what could only be described as an incredible experience of the impact of jet noise on Truckee – Tahoe wildlife and people using local hiking trails.
At about 7:10 PM local time, an extremely loud private jet capable of carrying several passengers flew over us as we were walking on a hiking trail near Alder Creek. The plane took off from the Truckee airport. Almost immediately after it passed over us we heard extremely loud yipping and howling of a pack of coyotes coming from a distance of several hundreds yards as the plane moved in their direction, still very low and loud. The yips and howls lasted for as long as the engines of the flying private jet were clearly heard. As the jet noise diminished, the coyotes stopped their loud protests just as suddenly as they had started and did not resume their yipping and howling. It was an incredible experience to see and hear how loud plane noise–in fact, already quite a long distance from the Truckee airport–affects wildlife in such a profound way. The coyotes were in the Tahoe National Forest near one of the Donner Party encampments and the Donner Camp Picnic Area located on California Highway 89 near the town of Truckee.
According to information of the National Park Service Yellowstone site, “coyotes are also known as ‘song dogs’ because they communicate with each other by a variety of long-range vocalizations. You may hear groups or lone animals howling, especially during dawn and dusk periods.” You can listen to the wide range of coyote sounds at Soundboard. Also check: Coyotes: Decoding Their Yips, Barks, and Howls by Brian Mitchell, an adjunct professor at the University of Vermont.
Everyone knows that coyotes are bold animals who are not easily scared or intimidated, but their loud yips and howls in reaction to jet noise showed that they were disturbed and possibly alarmed or even scared. If coyotes who can brazenly walk near people were showing a violent reaction to plane noise, we can only imagine what negative impact such noise has on other wildlife in the area.
One study (Dufour 1980) recommended that aircraft not be allowed to fly at altitudes below 2,000 feet above ground level over important grizzly and polar bear habitat.
We know that plane noise harms people. Scientific studies have shown that prolonged exposure to loud noise from planes has a negative effect on people’s health and on children’s ability to study and learn.
This is what Truckee – Tahoe residents need to know.
1. Local homeowners are paying approximately $4.5 million per year in a property tax subsidy to the Truckee – Tahoe Airport. This public money is administered by the elected five-person Board of Directors and Truckee airport staff. Most local residents are not aware that they are paying a subsidy which benefits mostly a small, affluent segment of the community. The vast majority of local homeowners cannot afford to fly private jets and other planes using the airport. Truckee is believed to have one of the most dangerous general aviation airports in the United States because of its location, altitude and weather. The airport is positioned right next to the downtown area. The impact of plane traffic and noise on residents is significant.
2. Most local residents are not aware of industry predictions which show that if nothing is done to discourage private jet travel to the Truckee airport, it will continue to grow at a fast pace, resulting in more noise, diminished quality of life, lower home values in neighborhoods most affected by jet noise, and wild life disturbance.
3. While in the past some of the $4.5 million annual local property tax subsidy had been used on purchases of open space near the airport, the current Board of Directors and airport staff have been considering recently such projects as building a $9 million hangar for jets, which NGOs may get to use for much less time for such things as large banquets (a questionable use of public money), and subsidizing a loan for a new hobby plane which airport staffers may also use.
4. Some members of the Truckee Tahoe Airport Board of Directors and staff openly promote giving public money to organizations or causes they are associated with but which may have nothing to do with aviation, aviation safety, or limiting plane noise disturbance. A local environmental NGO run by one of the Airport Board Directors was promised recently a donation of one dollar for every $100 dollars worth of jet fuel bought at the airport, thus creating a potential incentive to support growth of private jet traffic and noise harmful to the environment and wildlife.
5. While some Truckee Tahoe Airport District Board of Directors members are concerned about the impact of growing jet traffic and noise on local residents, future generations, environment and wildlife, others want to scrap or modify the 2004 Resolution on Limiting Jet Noise as being “outdated,” and resist taking meaningful steps to discourage further growth of jet noise pollution.
The community needs to think about these issues seriously or they will see their quality of life, the environment and their home values diminished.
The cries of the coyotes as a loud private jet taking off from the Truckee airport flew low over their habitat and a Prosser trail popular with residents and dogs should a warning to all of us. Unlike most commercial flights and I-80 or train transportation, private jet flights to the Truckee airport are mostly optional and frivolous. Road and train transportation in this area serves almost everybody among local residents and visitors; private plane travel to and from Truckee can only be afforded by very few affluent people, and yet it is they who are being subsidized by local taxpayers who are exposed to noise and pollution.
Private jet owners and passengers have many much more environment-friendly options, such as flying to Reno instead. But as one of the Truckee Airport Board of Directors member who supports private jet travel said, these affluent individuals will not bother to commute 20 or 30 minutes longer.
We do not believe this to be true about everyone flying here in private jets and turboprops even though some told us to move away if we don’t like plane noise, and one local resident was reportedly yelled at for complaining loudly about the $4.5 million airport subsidy. If you know any private jet owners or passengers tell them to think about themselves and their children a few years from now, their neighbors, future generations, and Truckee – Tahoe trails and wildlife.
What can you do?
2. Call the airport or Submit Plane Noise Reports Online, including noise reports from trails and lakes. Use your mobile phones.
3. Contact private companies that fly their members to Truckee in private jet and turboprops and urge them to offer flight to Reno and other commercial airports instead, and to urge their travelers to opt for such nearby destinations.
There may be others as well. If you know them, call and tell them that your tax dollars subsidizes their Truckee operations. Urge them to take action to protect the environment by exploring and offering other travel options to their members.
4. Urge your friends and neighbors not to fly to Truckee in jets and turboprops to show their commitment to protect quality of life for themselves, their children and others, and to protect nature.
5. Urge your friends, neighbors and visitors not to use local builders, real estate companies and resorts which actively promote private jet and turboprop flights to the Truckee airport. Call or email them them to express your disapproval. Urge your contacts to patronize green construction companies and other green businesses. Tell them that there are plenty of other more environmentally-friendly options to travel to Truckee – Tahoe and that ecotourists, eco-visitors and second-home eco-residents are always welcome.
6. Send emails to Truckee Tahoe Airport District Directors and check their website for dates and times of Airport Board public meetings you can attend at speak at. Make your views known to Truckee airport staff at their Truckee Thursday booth and ask them to convey your opinions to the Board. Tell Board members not to promote their private charities and causes at board meetings, especially if they are to receive public funds from the airport, to pay much more attention to aviation safety and noise avoidance, and not to check their private emails during public meetings as it is a show of lack of respect for the public and carries possible aviation safety risks if important matters are missed.
(Advice: do not raise your voice. Point out that you are not against subsidy for emergency flights, which are only a tiny portion of air traffic. Point out that on weekends and holidays there may be up to six loud private jets flying low over just one Truckee neighborhood in one hour in addition to frequent other local plane traffic noise. Do not be mislead by arguments that there may be just one jet per hour. Flights are not evenly distributed throughout a 24 hour period or throughout the year. Even night flights are now increasing, but the greatest concentration is on weekends, around holidays–times when local residents and visitors want to enjoy outdoors and nature.)
Consider running for the Airport Board during the next round of local elections.
7. Contact your other local officials (Town of Truckee, Nevada County, Placer County) and ask what can be done to spend public money on other community projects, such as building a new Public Library, instead of subsidizing private jet travel. Contact your member of Congress and ask what FAA and other federal agencies can do to protect the fragile Truckee – Tahoe – Donner environment and wildlife from growing Truckee airport private jet traffic and noise pollution.
Stock video of a private jet taking off from an isolated rural airport. Truckee Airport is next to downtown. The noise from the jet over Prosser may have been just as loud or even louder than in this video for an extended period of time.
JetSuite Plane at Truckee Airport. JetSuite is one of several companies offering semi-commercial plane travel to Truckee for affluent travelers who seem unconcerned about the damage private jets do to the quality of life of local residents and the environment.
A private jet similar to the one which triggered coyote yipping and howling near Prosser Reservoir, Truckee, CA.
This Image: “Coyotes (Canis latrans) are intelligent and adaptable. They can be found throughout North and Central America, thriving in major urban areas as well as in remote wilderness. This adaptability helped coyotes resist widespread efforts early in the 1900s to exterminate them in the West, including Yellowstone National Park, where other mid-size and large carnivores such as cougars and wolves were eradicated.” NPS
Feature Image: A Prosser neighborhood dog on a walk very close to the area where coyotes were disturbed by a loud private jet flying from Truckee airport. This image by Ted Lipien is in the public domain and can be downloaded and copied.
Middle Image: Coyotes (middle) are larger than red foxes (front) and smaller than wolves (back). National Park Service.
The Effect of Airport Noise on Housing Values: A Summary Report, by Office of Environment and Energy, Federal Aviation Administration, 1994
Daytime and night-time aircraft noise and cardiovascular disease near Heathrow airport in London by Anna L. HANSELL; Marta BLANGIARDO; Lea FORTUNATO; Sarah FLOUD; Kees de HOOGH; Daniela FECHT; Rebecca E. GHOSH; Helga E. LASZLO; Clare PEARSON; Linda BEALE; Sean BEEVERS, John GULLIVER; Nicky BEST; Sylvia RICHARDSON, Paul ELLIOTT
The NoiseQuest site is supported by the Federal Aviation Administration through the ASCENT Center of Excellence under grants to researchers at The Pennsylvania State University.
Discussion Paper 05: Aviation Noise by Airports Commission, UK | an independent commission appointed by Government “Tranquillity is seen by many as a valuable resource, which can increase feelings of calm and well-being and have positive effects on a person’s quality of life.”
Ted Lipien is a journalist, writer and media freedom nonprofit NGO director. His articles have been published in The Washington Times, The Washington Examiner, National Review, American Diplomacy Journal and in other newspapers and magazines. His investigative journalism work has been noted by NPR, Fox News, Congressional Record, The Washington Post, The New York Times and other publications. Much of his previous work as a Voice of America journalist focused on Soviet propaganda and disinformation. He is the author of “Wojtyla’s Women: How They Shaped the Life of Pope John Paul II and Changed the Catholic Church,” (London: O-Books, 2008)