Bring on da Noise

Sometimes we just have to ask: Is it possible for the county's planners and officials to display more contempt for the residents who have to pay for and live near the proposed El Toro International Airport?

In October 1997, San Diego Superior Court Judge Judith McConnell said the county's Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for El Toro had “the effect of artificially minimizing the proposed project's environmental impacts.”

County officials denied they had done anything wrong. McConnell told them to fix it anyway.

A little more than a month ago, the county released its “Draft Supplemental Analysis,” the rewritten DEIR portions mandated by McConnell. It is, to say the least, simply more of the same double talk and public-relations spinning we've grown accustomed to.

For starters, the county continues to insist that El Toro's air traffic in 1994 constitutes “existing conditions.” In 1994, 60,000 military jets flew in and out of El Toro. Today, the existing condition is that no military jets are using El Toro. Then again, how attractive would an international airport look when compared to an empty air station?

Even when the DEIR supplement shows the new airport will cause increased air pollution in Irvine-a city airport boosters are fond of saying will experience no ill effects from the airport-the county still wants to spin the data their way. For instance, Table S4-6 indicates traffic from the proposed airport will raise carbon monoxide (CO) emissions at seven Irvine intersections above state or federal environmental regulations.

Mostly located in and around the Irvine Spectrum, the sites seeing the greatest increases are the corner of Bake Parkway and Trabuco Road and the Sand Canyon/5 freeway interchange. Of course, the county was also quick to point out that five of those intersections already have excessive CO emissions-as though knowing those intersections are bad today makes further damage okay.

Also missing from the new DEIR was any discussion of the latest South Coast Air Quality Management District data on CO. That data, which is from 1997, shows CO didn't exceed state or federal standards on any day in central or south Orange County. By contrast, the southwest coastal region of LA County-that would be the area encompassing LAX-experienced one day that violated state standards and one day that violated federal standards. The same region reported LA's dirtiest air, with the exception of South-Central, the largely minority community over which incoming planes make their final approach to LAX.

Someday the county may come clean on the noxious future of El Toro. But that day may come long after El Toro opens, long after El Toro International Airport does its part to darken the skies over Orange County.

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