Chapter 3

Noise and Compatible Use Zones Studies

The Military Services develop comprehensive noise studies to support communities, compatible land use planning, and DoD basing efforts by conducting detailed analysis of military activities, operations, and the sounds they produce. These studies use noise modeling software to account for all known activities and operations at the installation or range, as well as projected conditions which may affect or change sound levels throughout surrounding communities.

Noise studies are a comprehensive look at a community's exposure to installation and range noise from current or future military activities. These studies produce maps that depict noise exposure levels (usually in DNL) that align with a common set of land use compatibility guidelines adopted by federal, state, and local governments. The studies recommend land uses for surrounding areas based on current and future military activities. Land use compatibility guidelines for noise provide agencies with the maximum recommended exposure for specific land uses and activities. For example, recommended maximum exposure levels for industrial land use are higher than recommended sound levels for residential areas or where schools and childcare facilities may be present.

Naval Air Station Meridian partnered with Lauderdale County to post signs near areas exposed to higher levels of aircraft noise from nearby military training activity. Location of the signs were determined based on noise studies conducted at the installation. The signs have helped inform new home buyers, lessees, and realtors of areas that are exposed to higher levels of long-term aircraft noise exposure.

The noise study results and land use recommendations within noise studies are used to support planning, decision-making, and outreach for communities and DoD. These studies and noise management efforts help installation personnel provide information, recommendations, and assistance as communities develop and implement land use controls, such as zoning, special permits and projects, subdivision regulations, capital improvement programs, building codes, noise disclosure, establishment of easements, and public land acquisition. Working together, the military and its neighboring communities can prevent incompatible development around an installation, such as residential development in high noise zones or near installation boundaries.

An engineering student from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, Calif., sits on Rogers Dry Lake Bed to record the noise footprint of the C-17 Globemaster III, during a noise mitigation study being conducted by NASA. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tom Tschida)

The military incorporates the results of noise studies in its noise reduction efforts, Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) Program, and other compatible land use programs including the including the Air Installations Compatible Use Zones (AICUZ) Program, the Navy Range Air Installations Compatible Use Zones (RAICUZ) Program, and the Marine Corps Range and Compatible Use Zones (RCUZ) Program. These programs promote outreach between installations and local communities that will help protect public health and safety, as well as preserve the operational utility of the installation. DoD also uses the results of noise studies to identify potential REPI projects and support funding decisions that prevent incompatible development around ranges and airfields. Noise studies are also used during strategic basing decisions and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis.