CARLSBAD — The proposed extension of the McClellan-Palomar Airport runway has been a source of controversy for years.
Residents in Bressi Ranch have long complained of noise and pollution due to small jets landing and taking off from the airport.
This week, San Diego County, which operates the airport, released its 309-page master plan update and Draft Environmental Impact Report. The plan creates a “blueprint” for the next 20 years of service and has identified several key issues to ensure the airport’s vitality.
The plan is split in three phases including near term (zero to seven years), intermediate term (eight to 12) and long term (13-20). The project improvements are estimated to cost more than $112 million.
Two of the most controversial issues under consideration are shifting the runway north by 123 feet to add a larger buffer between the runway and taxiway; and extending the runway between 200 and 800 feet for a maximum length of 5,700 feet. The runway is currently 4,897 feet long.
The report states, “the extension would have the added benefit of reducing noise west of the Airport (sic) because aircraft will gain height sooner.” The report further states, “This is because these aircraft need more runway length than currently exists to takeoff fully fueled and loaded, which would then allow them to fly farther and be more competitive in national and global markets.”
Extending the runway would allow the airport to use larger aircraft, although the size would be limited and exclude such aircraft as Boeing 737s. Regional sized jets, though, would be allowable for operations under this plan.
However, during a public open house last year and several times during City Council meetings over the past several years, residents have countered claims about noise reduction vociferously. Even residents in San Marcos and Vista have complained about continuous noise from aircraft.
Residents have demanded a public vote on any expansion and a Carlsbad resident group has formed, the Citizens for a Friendly Airport, which has partnered with the nonprofit South Vista Communities.
The groups are concerned about increased noise due to the Federal Aviation Administration’s implementation of NextGen technology, which triggers flight patterns, changes and lower altitudes, according to a story late last year in The Coast News.
“Citizens for a Friendly Airport wants to force the city of Carlsbad to hold a vote on the expansion of the airport,” Stephanie Jackel told The Coast News in December 2017. “If we can stop the expansion and more flights, then it’s not going to make anything wonderful, but it will certainly make it so it doesn’t get worse and worse.”
However, the report states noise levels have decreased over the past 20 years due to lower operations and quieter aircraft.
“Noise impacts related to the potential runway extension are also included in the analysis and show that noise would actually be reduced for neighborhoods west of the Airport (sic), without any increase in noise to the neighborhoods east of the Airport (sic),” the report states.
The report states with a “minor modification” the airport could service up to 305,000 departing passengers per year, although an alternative scenario, as a contingency, calls for up to 575,000 passengers.
Once the comment period is up, the county must respond to all comments before submitting to the Board of Supervisors, which could be this summer.
Two public meetings will be conducted on Jan. 30 and Feb. 13 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Carlsbad, 2725 Palomar Airport Road.
To read the report, visit https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/dam/sdc/dpw/AIRPORTS/palomar/documents/McClellan-Palomar_Master-Plan-Update_2018_DRAFT.pdf.