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GINOWAN, Okinawa — Aircraft noise from U.S. air bases continues to be an irritant to Okinawans living within earshot.

According to Okinawa Environmental Department statistics released Tuesday, the level of noise has increased at Futenma Marine Corps Air Station during the past Japanese fiscal year (April 2002 to March 2003).

Sensors around Futenma and Kadena Air Base are monitored daily by the prefecture and municipal governments hosting the bases. They mark the number of times a day the level exceeds 70 decibels.

The noise level is recorded at nine locations around Futenma and 15 locations around Kadena.

The study released by the prefectural government showed the noise level in the vicinity of Futenma exceeded that level an average of 77.3 times daily, an increase from an average of 24.6 times per day recorded in 2001.

The noise exceeded “acceptable levels” at seven of the nine monitoring points around Futenma, the report said.

The noise level around Kadena basically was unchanged from the previous year, the report said. Readings showed the noise level dropped at 10 locations and exceeded the 70-decibel threshold at five points.

Okinawa officials filed protests with U.S. military officials, the U.S. Consulate, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Defense Facilities Administration’s Naha Bureau on Wednesday demanding the United States make serious efforts to reduce base noise levels.

They also filed a protest concerning high noise levels at Japan Air Self-Defense Forces’ Naha Air Base.

The 70-decibel noise level was selected by Okinawa officials as the “standard,” but according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 70 decibels is about the clamor level experienced on a busy urban street corner or in a car on a busy freeway.

But some Okinawa officials argue aircraft noise has a different psychological impact, and the noise level at several locations actually exceeded 100 decibels.

U.S. officials say they have taken many steps over the years to reduce the impact of aircraft noise.

“Noise is inherent to both military and civilian aircraft operations," said Masao Doi, 18th Wing spokesman at Kadena. “Kadena leaders make every possible effort to mitigate the noise impact on the local community and carefully weigh community concerns with the base’s operational requirements. All flying on Kadena, to include quiet hours, complies with U.S.-Japan Joint Committee agreements and International Civil Aviation Organization guidelines.

“Kadena officials remain sensitive to the concerns of the surrounding communities regarding our flight-line operations,” Doi added. “With this in mind, we have made significant contributions by installing berms, a sound wall and implementing other noise-abatement measures.”

In 1996, the United States and Japan agreed to limit the impact on aircraft noise from Futenma in the city of Ginowan by moving Marine Corps air operations to the rural northern part of the island. The move was to be made within seven years, but initial opposition to the new airport delayed the project.

Plans have been approved for an offshore airport to be used jointly by civilian and military aircraft in the waters off the Marines’ Camp Schwab.

Environmental studies are under way; a start date for construction has yet to be set.

— Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.

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