A large number of bills before the state legislature are aimed at combating helicopter noise in Hawaii.

The bill introduced by Senator Puna Russell Ruderman would require the state's Department of Health, in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration, to study the impact of aircraft noise on residents.

Senate Bill 436 would also require public meetings to be held during the course of the study to gather input from the community.

Ruderman said there were about 80 round trip flights between Hilo and the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park a day, which means that a "small number of poor people lying on this trajectory fly 160 helicopters a day. "

Although the situation has worsened since the eruption of Kilauea volcano in the lower Puna, last year, the noise of helicopters was a problem before the lava flow, he said.

However, according to Ruderman, only the FAA has control of flight paths and regulation of aircraft after they leave the airport.

There is "very little that the state can do to influence these thefts, but noise is one of the state's skills." The DOH is supposed to regulate noise when it has an impact on public health, which is the case, but they chose not to do so. do it until now. "

Ruderman said SB 436 was "the only way I could get the state to intervene in the problem of helicopter noise."

"Although the DOH can provide a noise study, we would be ill-equipped to recommend aircraft noise legislation, because the regulation of Hawaii's airspace in general, and the management of flight paths in particular , in addition to the noise of an aircraft at its source, are governed exclusively by federal law, "said department spokeswoman Janice Okubo." Accordingly, any commitment of the DOH to regulate in these areas would be subject to preemption from the federal government and would probably be invalidated. "

Helicopter noise has long been a concern for many people in Big Island.

In August, nearly 200 people attended a community meeting organized by the Airports Division of the State Department of Transportation to discuss helicopter noise in residential areas.

As a result of this meeting, a round table committee consisting of representatives from DOT, FAA, Hawaii Helicopter Association and the community was set up to seek a solution. The committee has since met twice – in October and January.

The Malama Pono, or HICoP, of the Hawaii Island Coalition, also filed a lawsuit against the FAA in the fall, seeking an injunction for the FAA to implement a HVNP airspace management plan.

Pleadings were scheduled before the US Court of Appeals in November, but they were quashed and the group is filing a new application.

Ruderman, however, said he was not "turned against the helicopters, but there are things that travel agencies could do to be a better neighbor."

While the bill, as originally drafted, does not provide funding for the study, Mr. Ruderman said that a credit could be determined later. He estimates it could be around $ 100,000.

SB 436 was co-sponsored by fellow Big Island Sens. Lorraine Inouye, Dru Kanuha and Kai Kahele, who, according to Ruderman, constitute "a strong demonstration of unity there."

In addition to the legislation, Ruderman also suggested creating a heliport in the lower part of the Puna, similar to that of Waikoloa.

It does not have to be big business, he said, and would not need a lot of infrastructure.

"If we had that, so many things would be better."

Tourists came and went, meaning helicopters would not have to fly over their homes, he said. Ruderman said it would also bring tourists – and economic benefits – to Puna.

Bill 421 introduced by Representative Richard Onishi, serving Hilo, Keaau, Kurtistown and Volcano, would partially create a five-year general excise tax exemption on maintenance and maintenance facilities helicopters. provided that no less than 75% of the helicopters serviced and maintained are equipped with "silent technology".

As proposed in the amended legislation, silent technology means the use of design, technology and modifications to "reduce or redirect the sound generated by the engine's exhaust, tail or main rotor".

If approved, the bill will come into force on January 1, 2020 and will be repealed on December 31, 2024.

Mayor Harry Kim objected to the measure, according to written testimony submitted before a hearing of the House Transportation Committee.

Helicopters are a "valuable asset" to the state's tourism industry, but they have also been the source of "innumerable complaints from communities on their flight paths," he said. -he writes.

"The helicopter companies are now asking the legislature for special treatment with respect to the general excise tax," continued Kim's testimony. "There is no suggestion of economic difficulties; there is no credible argument (to my knowledge) that new facilities will be attracted to Hawaii; and there is no indication that the industry would use its savings to better accommodate those living in their country overflown. The exemption will only add to the financial results of the companies. "

A modified HB 421 did, however, receive second reading on February 6 and was referred to the Economic Development and Business Committee.

Finally, Senate Bill 1069, introduced by Senator Oahu, Laura Thielen, would provide an income tax credit to taxpayers who install a "helicopter noise suppression technology" on helicopters operated primarily in the United States. the state. The tax credit would be available until January 1, 2022.

The legislation also calls for limiting tourist helicopter flights within a mile of residential neighborhoods between 6 pm and 6 pm. and from 8am Monday to Saturday and from 6pm to 9am on Sundays and public holidays.

However, a number of individuals and organizations objected, citing the FAA's exclusive authority to regulate theft patterns of testimony before the Senate Committee on Ways and Means hearing.

The committee recommended approval with amendments on February 6th.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.