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Tri-Cities residents, politicians concerned about proposed new YVR flight paths

A map released by Nav Canada shows the historical airplane flight patterns — in blue — and the projected streamlined paths, in white and yellow. (Nav Canada - image credit)
A map released by Nav Canada shows the historical airplane flight patterns — in blue — and the projected streamlined paths, in white and yellow. (Nav Canada - image credit)

Residents and politicians in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, and Port Moody —the Tri-Cities — are speaking out against a proposal to consolidate airplanes arriving into YVR along designated paths.

"We'll see more aircraft certainly, and the noise associated with that," said Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart.

"To put so much of the air traffic over a community that doesn't have that much, our residents are concerned."

Nav Canada, the  private, not-for-profit corporation that operates Canada's air traffic control system, says satellite technology has made it possible for airplanes to take a more precise path while landing.

Their proposed airspace modernization project, or "invisible highways in the sky," is meant to safely manage airspace, reduce pollution, and accommodate for future growth.

Under the change Nav Canada estimates as many as 61,000 fewer residents would experience noise levels above 60 decibels — normal speaking volume — if the flight paths are streamlined, as the planes would fly over fewer homes.

While the consolidation means planes will fly over fewer homes, some residents living in the homes that are under the new flight paths are worried they will hear an increase in noise.

The paths are located through Delta, Langley, and the Tri-Cities.

'Just listen to us'

Nav Canada wrote in a statement it has completed a public consultation on the project, which included in-person and virtual community consultations.

"Events were well attended and we've seen very robust response rates," says the statement.

But Stewart said Nav Canada has not provided the City of Coquitlam with sufficient information about the impacts of the new flight paths.

"We say to Nav Canada: just listen to us and let's have a dialogue. Not this single direction consultation process."

One of the proposed flight paths is over Angela Tatto's home, located in the Maillardville neighborhood of Coquitlam.

Yasmin Gandham/CBC
Yasmin Gandham/CBC

Tatto said during a Nav Canada community meeting she attended, she was told a plane would fly over the area approximately every four to five minutes, emitting about 60 decibels (dBA) of sound.

"It's detrimental to the community, it's detrimental to the health of the people, it's detrimental to all the students that are in the schools in this area."

Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations stipulate that noise exposure level must be, on average, no greater than 87 dBA over an eight-hour period.

That means workers can be exposed to sound levels higher than 87 dBA for short periods of time, as long as the average over 8 hours does not exceed 87 dBA.

HealthlinkBC says the effects of noise can vary among people, but in general only sounds above 85 dBA are harmful.

'Constant noise'

Tatto said the current ambient noise in her neighborhood is around 45 to 48 decibels.

"When I purchased here 11 years ago. . . you don't have that constant noise of a plane overhead."

Port Moody's City Council has sent a formal request to Nav Canada to reconsider the location of the routes.

"Those flights will be traveling very precisely over the same residences over and over and over again," said Mayor Meghan Lahti.

 

Lahti said council will not give its support to the project unless more information about potential impacts is provided.

"There are concerns around the governance model for Nav Canada and the fact that they're not really accountable to anybody. They're certainly not accountable to the residents that they're impacting," said Lahti.

Nav Canada charges airlines and customers fees to pay for its operations rather than relying on government funding. It also receives revenue from developing and selling air navigation technology and related services.