Reader CB showed up in my e-mail with an interesting challenge to me.

In the weekly column I made a big deal about the airport authority’s addition of a clause about noise impacts into its ballot measure for November.

The ballot measure asks, of course, if the airport authority and government officials should “work to obtain” land at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar “provided … overall noise impacts are reduced.”

Representatives of the airport authority have held in public recently that noise impacts from adding a new commercial airport to Miramar – where Marine pilots practice their skills with the F-18 – won’t be a problem. In order to put commercial airliners at Miramar, the military would have to change the way it does its flight operations there. And, it’s imagined, the military would have to fly over many more residences than it does now.

In other words, the noise problem from a new airport wouldn’t necessarily come from the new airport – it would come from the shifting military operations.

Airport authority officials have said that this isn’t necessarily a real problem because the military may not need to do the same kind of flight operations in the future at Miramar. They – specifically airport board members Bill Lynch and Paul Nieto – say that we’re imagining a shift around of what kind of flights the military does at Miramar now, rather than taking into consideration that the Marines may not use F-18s at Miramar in the future.

I take all this to mean that the airport authority is actually banking on military flight operations at Miramar ceasing – or at least continuing only in a limited, much different fashion.

Reader CB wrote in that there’s another way to read the clause “provided … overall noise impacts are reduced.” She wrote the clause could simply mean the airport authority will mitigate any of the noise impacts that changes to Miramar causes.

In other words, airport officials might just mean that they’ll give people thicker windows on their houses.

Wait, let CB tell it:

As I read this language, it would allow the military to keep flying as long as the impacts are mitigated – including the possibility of retrofitting houses to reduce the effects.

But, as I understand it, and as Nieto and Lynch have stated, the plan isn’t to give residents thicker windows to block the sound of the F-18s over their houses. The plan is that the military is not going to do any F-18 thing over these neighborhoods.

The noise issue isn’t about mitigating what people hear in their houses, it’s about how many houses are subjected to a certain threshold of noise. The airport authority acknowledges that if a commercial airport is located at Miramar, it will force the military to do F-18 practice flights over an unacceptable number of houses.

How is this OK? The military will move on, airport officials say. It will not have F-18s and there’s no prediction that the F-18 replacement will be located at Miramar.

Military officials, of course, say neither of those points is true.

SCOTT LEWIS

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