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Obama family visit grounds Grand Canyon air tours, as NPS forges ahead with new plan in wake of consensus group failure to agree

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After eight years of struggling to bring conflicting interest groups together to support a consensus alternative for managing air tours at Grand Canyon National Park, an FAA-organized Grand Canyon Working Group has adjourned indefinitely.  The Working Group included NPS, FAA, tribal, environmental, and aviation industry representatives. At the Working Group’s last meeting, in late June, the GCWG disagreed on NPS alternatives, including a seasonal shift in air-tour corridors by alternatively closing the Zuni and Dragon corridors, which are now open concurrently.  According to a recent article in Aviation International News,  “The FAA does not have a role at this point,” said Lucy Moore, the GCWG mediation facilitator, adding “When the NPS presents one preferred alternative, the FAA will then review it for safety issues.”  In recent years, the NPS has clarified its goals to meet congressional mandates to “substantially restore” natural quiet in the canyon; they are aiming to have half the canyon be free of air tour noise 75% of the time, though high-altitude jet flight will not be regulated.  The Park Service is aiming to release a draft EIS in 2010; see their overflights web page for more details.  At the June Working Group meeting, participants noted that the Park Service seemed more engaged and prepared to push for protecting natural quiet than during the previous administration; however, it is unlikely that the NPS plan will have as dramatic an effect on reducing air tour noise in the canyon as did an August visit by the First Family, when dozens of air tours were grounded for much of the day during a peak visitation period.

One Response to “Obama family visit grounds Grand Canyon air tours, as NPS forges ahead with new plan in wake of consensus group failure to agree”

  1. » Blog Archive » Will Senate swallow McCain’s bait on last-minute Grand Canyon overflight intervention? Says:

    […] of McCain’s amendment seems to mimic what the NPS has indicated it’s aiming for, an FAA-convened working group fell apart over some of the NPS ideas, seasonal limits on certain popular air-tour […]