A meeting was held April 27 at the Pala tribal office to address the issue of noise from the motocross track that can be heard by nearby Rainbow residents.
The meeting had 54 attendees and included speakers from the tribe.
“I thought it was an interesting attempt to at least offer up some dialogue,” said Rainbow Community Planning Group chair Paul Georgantas.
The Pala motocross track is on tribal trust land which had previously been used as a gravel quarry. It is 2,440 feet from the nearest property line. Because initial studies indicated that noise was not heard at the casino or at the reservation boundaries, no stipulations about noise were included in the lease contract with the motocross interests.
“We didn’t think it was going to be an issue,” said Pala tribal spokesman Doug Elmets. “We need to address that.”
Georgantas lives in Rice Canyon, approximately 4 1/2 miles from the track by straight line. “I can hear a pretty good roar here,” he said. “The weekends are particularly bad.”
Georgantas notes that Rainbow’s topography often augments the noise. “They’ve done some things to mitigate the sound at street level,” he said. “They didn’t count on the fact that you can hear it very, very loudly three miles away.”
Georgantas has heard comments from other Rainbow residents that the noise approaches 90 decibels at their property lines. “My sense is that the physical aspects of that valley are going to be hard to attenuate that noise,” he said.
A consultant at the meeting spoke of atmospheric factors which can affect noise. While tribal representatives gave a presentation which explained some details about the tribe, the focus was on efforts to deal with noise. “We’ve commissioned a study, a noise study,” Elmets said.
The study will include atmospheric issues such as temperature, inversion layers, and wind direction as well as noise measurements in Rainbow. Elmets expects that study to take place during the fourth quarter of 2010. Tribal representatives plan to hold another community meeting about the study and possible mitigation methods.
The study will also review other impacts. “We’re going to be looking at air pollution issues,” Elmets said.
The tribe’s environmental staff has been monitoring emissions, and the track currently meets Federal and state particulate matter standards. “We want to make sure that’s included on an ongoing basis as well,” Elmets said.
“They made an attempt,” Georgantas said. “As a tribe they certainly are intent on separating the tribe from their lessee.”
Elmets notes that the motocross track benefits nearby communities as well as the tribe’s revenues from the lease. “It does bring in more tourism to the area,” he said. “We look at it more as an opportunity.”
Elmets and the tribe hope, however, that the track can also be enjoyed by the neighbors rather than loathed. “We are sensitive to the concerns of the neighbors, and that’s the reason we have been meeting with them regularly and it’s the reason we are conducting the noise study,” he said.
“We’re working very closely with the lessee,” Elmets said. “Members of the tribe live in the community as well, work in the community as well.”
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