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Nearly 3K sign petition against more aircraft flying over Tri-Cities

A Coquitlam resident has started an online petition opposing an increase in jet aircraft flying over Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody neighbourhoods.
An aerial view of Metro Vancouver through an airplane window.

Opposition to increased air traffic over Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody is growing with more than 2,600 names to a petition against the proposal by NAV CANADA.

Kenneth Bell, a Westwood Plateau resident who started the petition, hopes his efforts will lead to more awareness and stop NAV CANADA from putting more planes over his home.

"One of the big concerns about all this is the lack of consultation and engagement in the process itself. I’m not the only who has voiced concern about that. It would have been more transparent and more had people been involved," said Bell.

Bell has sent his petition to the federal Minister of Transportation Omar Alghabra, as well as NAV CANADA officials and local politicians.

And while public input has ended in the consultation period for the Vancouver Airspace Modernization Project (VAMP) by the air traffic monitoring agency, Bell said it's not too late for residents to be heard.

"NAV CANADA has said they don’t anticipate making a decision on this until the fall. I think we still have some 'runway' to affect a change," he told the Tri-City News.

In addition to the petition, a website called Tri-Cities Overflights and Concerned Residents raises concerns about the impact of more jet aircraft flying above Tri-City neighbourhoods, including fears about disturbed sleep, harm to children's education outcomes and increased stress in local communities.

However, NAV CANADA maintains that the noise of the jet aircraft will be equivalent to 60 db or that of a normal conversation and that the new routes will be safer, given the projected increase in flights and more efficient.

Bell said he disputes NAV CANADA'S contentions that the changes in noise levels won't affect Tri-City residents, calling the noise modelling "simplistic."

"NAV CANADA is doing these predictions based on simplistic variables, assuming that everything is flat, and sea level — well, that’s not the case in the Tri-Cities."

In his email to the federal minister of transportation, Bell said he moved to Coquitlam with his family of five in 2005 for its "peace and solitude" due to the location near forests, mountains and streams.

But he is facing the prospect of being woken up to the sound of large commercial airplanes overhead.

"We did not choose to live under a flight path, but now it appears that this is being forced upon us as a result of decisions being made without adequate engagement or consultation with those directly affected by it."

NAV CANADA states that it too is concerned about public safety, which is why it is undertaking the Vancouver Aircraft Modernization Project, and disagrees that it has not done enough consultation.

In a statement to the Tri-City News, the agency said it began consultation in November, starting with municipal, provincial, and federal levels of government across Metro Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast and the Southern Vancouver Island area.

It followed up with discussion opportunities — both in person and online — with residents.

"NAV CANADA made significant effort to promote awareness of the proposal, create a venue for discussion and allow for those affected — or their elected representatives — to form their opinions and make informed decisions about feedback."

Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody councils have raised concerns about the overflights but NAV CANADA said those municipalities were among those that were briefed.

NAV CANADA states a public report is forthcoming that will respond to feedback and make recommendations as to next steps, including potential adjustments to the proposal. 

No date has been provided; however, a spokesperson said the report would be available "no sooner than spring."