Nav Canada acknowledged the changes will mean some B.C. communities will get more airplane traffic but others will have it decrease.
The company responsible for controlling Canada’s air traffic says it’s modernizing operations in southern B.C. and Vancouver Island to make it more efficient and less polluting.
But the Tri-Cities communities will have more planes flying over them and they aren’t happy.
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Port Moody Mayor Meghan Lahti said Nav Canada rushed through public consultations and didn’t approach interested parties such as municipalities and Indigenous groups. She said her community has significant concerns about the proposed changes to the routing of planes approaching Vancouver International Airport.
More planes will be flying over Port Moody, at a lower level than before, but as mayor she only found out about the call for public input on Friday. Nav Canada held open houses in person and online about the proposed changes in January and the cut off for for receiving public opinion is Feb. 3.
“What kind of consultation for such a major change happens over one month,” Lahti said. “We understand that air travel is an essential element to the prosperity of the region, however, these types of decisions should be considered in a more open, transparent and impartial manner.”
Nav Canada, a private not-for-profit company responsible for air traffic control and related services, announced on Dec. 6 it was modernizing the airspace around Metro Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast and southern Vancouver Island by introducing new technology.
Controlling air traffic in a more precise way will make operations more efficient and will reduce emissions, said company spokesman Jonathan Bagg.
He said highways in the sky need updating in the same way that roads do and Vancouver’s overhaul is similar to what is happening across Canada and is necessary to plan for expected growth in air travel.
Nav Canada acknowledged that some communities will get traffic increase but others will have it decrease. It expects a net decrease in 60,000 residents experiencing loud aircraft noises.
Lahti’s concerns are echoed by Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam city halls.
Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West sent a letter to Nav Canada saying residents are concerned about noise pollution and safety risks and requested the aircraft be routed over “less populated areas, such as waterways, highways and industrial and commercial areas.”
Bagg said that was done wherever possible and Nav Canada had to adhere to Transport Canada’s design specifications. He noted “it’s challenging operating an airport in an urban area.”
Nav Canada will consider public input before finalizing changes, that are expected no sooner than fall and possibly next year, he said.
Some residents launched a website called nooverflights.com and a petition opposing the changes they say “will result in many noisy planes flying daily over our neighbourhoods” and by Thursday had collected 463 signatures.
Coquitlam Coun. Craig Hodge said based on Nav Canada website data, his city would expects four or five planes overhead every hour. He said the city is sending Nav Canada a letter requesting they consider other flight paths.
Delta will benefit from the changes because air traffic will be routed over uninhabited areas, such as Burns Bog and farmland, said Coun. Dylan Kruger.
Nav Canada has posted details about the proposed changes on its website, at navcanada.ca, and users can watch one of the online open houses. Bagg said people can respond to a survey up until Monday.
Lahti said the public consultation process is frustrating because Nav Canada is not accountable to voters even though it’s making decisions that are affecting hundreds of thousands of people.
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