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Local Lawmakers Press for New Federal Study of Helicopter Noise in D.C. Area

Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District) and other D.C.-area lawmakers are pressing for a new study of helicopter noise in the area, a persistent concern for many Arlingtonians living near the county’s copious military installations.

Beyer and four of his Democratic colleagues sent a letter to the head of the Government Accountability Office Monday (Jan. 28) calling for an examination of everything from which helicopters tend to make the most noise to which neighborhoods military aircraft pass over most frequently.

“Many of our constituents live with the impacts of regular helicopter noise that interrupts sleep patterns, causes their homes to shake and negatively impacts their quality of life,” the members of Congress wrote. “While disturbances from helicopter noise have been a longstanding problem for some, others have noted recent increases in the frequency and severity of helicopter noise in their neighborhoods.”

Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Anthony Brown (D-Md.) and David Trone (D-Md.) joined Beyer in writing the letter.

In all, they argue that “information collection, analysis and coordination” will help lawmakers “identify strategies to minimize the negative impacts of helicopter activity without impeding the work of the agencies operating helicopters within the region.”

Other points they’d like to see the agency investigate include “the frequency of flights over neighborhoods, including information on each agency operating helicopters, the times of flight and flight altitude; the number of flights that occur during the day and at night” and “the altitude at which helicopters currently fly within the Washington metropolitan area today compared to the altitude at which helicopters operated within the Washington metropolitan area in the past.”

The lawmakers are also looking to learn more about “degree of coordination that currently exists among the various government and non-governmental entities operating helicopters” in the region, in order to improve efforts to cut back on noise. Beyer has previously proposed similar efforts aimed at increasing that collaboration, including a “working group” that would’ve included both local officials and representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Defense.

Beyer has certainly raised the issue plenty of times since winning office for the first time in 2014, and has also pressured the DOD to pursue other studies of helicopter noise, or even to simply fly its helicopters at higher altitudes to reduce noise complaints.

However, many of those efforts have been stymied by Republican leaders, who have long controlled the House of Representatives — Beyer is cautiously optimistic that the new Democratic majority will be more sympathetic to his concerns.

Beyer and his colleagues are hoping to get an answer on this latest request for a study within the next month or so.

Flickr pool photo by Jeff Sonderman

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It is the decision of the United States Department of Defense (DoD) Washington Headquarters Services (WHS) to implement the Proposed Action: the 2024 Pentagon Reservation Master Plan Update (Pentagon Master Plan) as the framework to guide future decisions regarding land use and infrastructure at the Pentagon site and Mark Center. The Pentagon Master Plan aims to provide an update to the existing conditions at the Pentagon and Mark Center and presents projects and revisions to land use categorizations that will address the specific needs to reduce the Pentagon’s environmental impacts and advance sustainability, security, and resilience. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review has been completed through preparation of a Final Environmental Assessment (EA) to evaluate environmental impacts arising from implementation of the projects. WHS has concluded that no significant impacts to the human or natural environment will result from implementation of any projects, and recognized negative effects will be reduced by adherence to standard best management practices, applicable permit and consultation conditions, and standard operating procedures. This decision is further documented in the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) signed on March 20, 2024.

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For further information and to request a copy of the Final EA or FONSI, please contact Brian King, Environmental and Sustainability Program Manager, WHS/Facilities Services Directorate/Standards and Compliance Division/Environmental and Sustainability Branch; (703-614-3658 or [email protected]). Please include “Pentagon Master Plan Final EA and FONSI” in the subject line.

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Come hear the latest news about fair housing enforcement, policy, and programs within Arlington County, Virginia, and across the country! Our expert panelists and guest speakers include fair housing advocates, elected officials, and government officials tasked with advancing housing equity at the local, state, and federal level.

Arlington has made substantial strides in advancing housing equity and improving fair housing policy with the adoption of the Regional Fair Housing Plan in 2023. Come learn what’s next to fight housing discrimination, incorporate equity for marginalized populations in our housing policies and programs, and increase awareness of fair housing rights under state and federal law.

We’ll have updates from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing federal rule, a panel discussion of fair housing progress at the General Assembly and across Virginia, and a panel of local experts discussing the progress Arlington has made and what remains to be done.
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