Sussex County officials quiet over noisier air traffic

| 21 Feb 2012 | 03:11

A proposal by the Federal Aviation Administration that would reroute air traffic over New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York has met strong resistance recently from opponents in Bergen County and Rockland County, N.Y., where noise levels could increase significantly. Yet officials in Sussex County, which could absorb the biggest increase in air traffic noise in the geographic area under the FAA’s Integrated Airspace Alternative proposal, have been relatively quiet about a plan that could go into effect as early as September. If the plan were to go into effect without any noise mitigation measures introduced by the FAA, some residents of Sussex County could experience up to a 3.2 times increase in jet noise, said Jerome Feder, a director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Aircraft Noise, a volunteer citizen group based in Scotch Plains that’s working to address airport and airplane noise. According to Feder, more than 11,000 Sussex County residents would experience a doubling of airplane noise, while another 9,000 would have to contend with a three-fold increase in overhead noise. Under the FAA’s plan, which is intended to ease congestion in and out of New Jersey-, New York- and Philadelphia-area airports, residents of Bergen and Rockland could see a spike of 200 percent or more in air noise levels, said Robert Belzer, coalition present. He attended an FAA hearing in Bergen County in June that was attended by more than 1,000 angry residents, where police had to be called in. Yet here in Sussex County, where an increase in noise levels could reach 15 decibels or greater, compared to an anticipated 5-to-10 decibel increase in Rockland or Bergen based on NJCAAN’s estimates, officials appear to be unmoved. “Anything above five decibels is problematic,” said Belzer. An increase in atmospheric noise of 15 decibels or greater “is off the charts,” he added. “For some reason, everyone in Sussex (County government) appears to be asleep at the switch.” Calls to FAA officials were not returned by deadline. In a February interview with The Advertiser News, Steve Kelley, project manager for the FAA’s redesign effort, said at the time that FAA officials would consider feedback at the public hearings regarding noise mitigation strategies. He added that the FAA expected to announce a record of decision sometime in August.