Turbulence overstated

Norm Rosene is a Chico dentist, chairs the Butte County Airport Land Use Commission.
Thank you for your coverage of the recent joint meeting between the Butte County Airport Land Use Commission (ALUC) and the Chico City Council ["Turbulence over the airport,” March 1]. Unfortunately, the article contained several inaccuracies that require correction.

The ALUC is an appointed county commission tasked with the responsibility of developing land use plans for Butte County’s four public-use airports. The recently adopted plan, the 2000 Butte County Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan, was in development for more than two years. Utilizing the same consultant that wrote the Caltrans Airport Land Use Planning Handbook, ALUC accepted public comment and testimony during two public-comment periods, seven workshops, 18 public meetings and a special joint meeting that included all the elected governing bodies of Butte County. The city of Chico had multiple opportunities to provide input for the plan, and much of the information utilized for Chico Municipal Airport came from the city’s own master plan consultant.

Your recent article states that the 2000 ALUC plan “calls for the Bidwell Ranch property to remain undeveloped.” This is not correct. The 2000 ALUC plan designates the Bidwell Ranch property as part of the “extended approach/departure zone.” This designation allows for residential development and other types of uses. The plan does specify density and intensity-of-use maximums.

The article in question explains that “accident scatter” refers to the “flying debris released from a plane crash or emergency jettison.” This is incorrect. The term “accident scatter study,” as used in the joint meeting, refers to actual and statistically generated maps of real and potential aircraft crash sites around an airport. These maps are used to assess relative risk in the given compatibility zones, and in fact help to shape the zone boundaries.

I am quoted as saying that CDF firefighting aircraft take off with “7,000 to 8,000 gallons of water.” I do not believe that is what I said. The correct figures for the P-3 Orion aircraft are 3,000 gallons of retardant, which weighs about 27,000 pounds. The aircraft itself weighs over 100,000 pounds. The article is correct in suggesting that overflights of houses at low altitudes by these aircraft can pose a “major problem.”

Lastly, the general tone of the article suggests strong animosity between the ALUC and the City Council. I do not believe this to be the situation that exists. While some of the conversation was loud and forceful, the overall discussion consisted of a genuine exchange of ideas and information. The City Council asked tough and pointed questions. I believe the ALUC responded with good answers based on appropriate science and aviation reality. One thing that your reporter might have noted was that during the break following the joint session, both the ALUC commissioners and the City Council members were intermingled in discussion. This was a strong indication that useful dialogue occurred during the meeting and, I hope, a harbinger for future discussions between the two groups.

I appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight.