Public comments sought for marine sanctuary overflight limits

By on Sat, January 15, 2011

NOAA’s proposing to limit the altitude of planes flying over marine sanctuaries. The agency says this would be a clarification of existing regulations.

Currently, overflight restriction zones for the sanctuaries are not clearly depicted on FAA aeronautical charts. NOAA is working with the FAA to change the notation on aeronautical charts from “recommended” to “required,” which would provide appropriate notice to pilots and ensure the protection of resources under NOAA’s stewardship.

Regulations for Monterey Bay, Channel Islands, Gulf of the Farallones and Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuaries all restrict low altitude overflights within specified zones in each sanctuary (subject to certain exceptions) in order to protect marine mammals and seabirds from disturbance by aircraft.

At Monterey Bay, Channel Islands and Gulf of the Farallones, flights below 1,000 feet are restricted within the designated zones. At Olympic Coast, flights below 2,000 feet are restricted within one nautical mile of Flattery Rocks, Quillayute Needles or Copalis National Wildlife Refuge, or within one nautical mile seaward from the coastal boundary of the sanctuary.

A detailed description of the proposed changes is available online.

The public comment period has been extended and comments on the proposed changes will be accepted through Feb. 7, 2011.