Town files lawsuit to prevent Logan flight-path changes

MARSHFIELD - Town officials have sued the Massachusetts Port Authority to head off possible flight-path changes at Logan Airport they say will increase air traffic over Marshfield.

In its lawsuit, the town charges there has not been proper environmental review of routes recommended to Massport. It also says it had no input in the study on which the recommendations are based.

"It seems to us that they're going to be going forward with this anyway without a further environmental review, which is a big problem," Selectmen Chairwoman Patricia Epstein said.

"We're saying there should be further review of the proposed flight track changes and that the town should have a seat at the table during that review," town counsel Robert Marzelli said.

The Logan Airport Community Advisory Committee, which has been working for several years to develop noise-stifling measures, made recommendations to Massport on new flight paths in January.

Marshfield officials asked the Federal Aviation Administration this spring to halt the noise studies for 60 days so they could learn about the flight plans. Instead, FAA officials agreed to provide towns with the data once it has been compiled.

FAA spokesman James Peters said his agency is analyzing the cumulative effect of the recommendations. They are waiting for Massport to recommend changes the agency would like to implement, he said.

The recommended routes concentrate flights over Massachusetts Bay. Planes would fly higher, and many would cross the shore in a narrow corridor above Marshfield.

More than 200 additional flights a day would be routed over Marshfield, but the noise impact would be insignificant, Peters said.

Peters said planes fly over Marshfield at altitudes of 6,000 to 10,000 feet. The proposed plan would increase departure altitudes by as much as 5,000 feet. Arrival altitudes would not change.

Peters said 660 flights a day would be distributed evenly over six Marshfield locations, an increase from the roughly 300 a day that fly over two locations and about 120 more that fly over two others.

Neighboring communities such as Scituate, Hingham, Cohasset and Hull, which have 200 to 500 flyovers a day, would have 30 to 65 fewer per day, Peters said.

Those towns had representatives on the advisory committee, while Marshfield did not until two were appointed recently.

Marshfield officials say their town was never involved in committee meetings and was kept in the dark about the degree to which the town could be affected.

Leaders of the advisory committee said they made many efforts to reach out to all towns.

The town filed the lawsuit after hiring an independent consultant, Schomer and Associates Inc., of Champaign, Ill., to do a noise study.

Schomer found the advisory committee study overestimated aircraft noise in Marshfield, which means that it underestimated how much louder the noise will become after planes are rerouted. The firm is now completing a detailed study on noise in Marshfield, Marzelli said.

Since the suit was filed, the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office has contacted Massport and is reviewing whether further state environmental review will be required, said Robert Keough, spokesman for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

In the meantime, Marzelli said, the town would continue its study.

"We still want to have dialogue with Massport and with (the) FAA," he said. "Even though a lawsuit's filed, that doesn't mean that the town doesn't want to resolve this and doesn't want to talk to the people involved."

Details on the recommended flight paths can be found at bostonoverflightnoisestudy.com.

In its lawsuit, the town charges there has not been proper environmental review of routes recommended to Massport.


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