NOAA 2001-R401
Contact: Connie Barclay


U.S. Commerce Secretary Norman Y. Mineta announced today that the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration's National Ocean Service will convene a second scientific panel to study the possible impacts of new runways in San Francisco on the San Francisco Bay coastal ecosystems.

NOAA Science Panel II will analyze technical studies conducted for the San Francisco International Airport, as it plans for its proposed runway reconfiguration, to determine if the results are scientifically sound, and to adequately characterize potential project impacts to the environment.

San Francisco Bay area regulatory agencies and the San Francisco International Airport asked NOAA to help provide an outside, unbiased perspective on the environmental studies done to prepare for runway expansion. The airport, the San Francisco Office of Environmental Review, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, Federal Aviation Administration and NOAA collaborated to develop a review process that includes public meetings, and ultimately a report to be released in the summer of 2001.

Panel members include nationally recognized experts on the bay area, from government, academia and the private sector. Jerry Schubel, Ph.D., president of the New England Aquarium, will chair the panel. The panel's findings will be available to FAA and OER for use in preparing federal and state environmental impact statements and reports as required for permit applications to construct any new runways. The findings will also be made available to the bay regulatory agencies and the public.

"The proposed new runways are of great significance for the bay area and for the bay itself. The magnitude of the project requires that we have the best possible scientific information available to San Francisco International Airport, FAA and OER, and to the regulatory agencies that decide whether to grant necessary permits," Secretary Mineta said.

"This review process will help add to the quality of information about the proposed runways project and its environmental impacts, " he added. The NOAA Science Panel will provide the airport, as well as federal and state agencies and the public, with an independent assessment of the environmental studies. I believe this will increase public confidence in the environmental review and regulatory processes."

The review panel follows the first NOAA-convened Scientific Panel on New Runways in San Francisco Bay that met in October 1999. That panel, also chaired by Schubel, identified key environmental issues, such as the hydro-dynamics of the bay and the effects on fish and wildlife, that should be addressed for the runway expansion projects. The panel also recommended an independent peer review process for the airport's technical and scientific studies. NOAA Science Panel II implements the first panel's recommendations for peer review, and will help the airport and federal and state agencies determine how well the technical studies address key environmental issues.