The final draft of the Haines Borough’s $41,300 noise study is in, but it’s still unclear if or how the results will translate into law or policy.

Though the noise study was authorized in February 2015, discussion of its potential costs and benefits dated to March 2014, when the assembly voted to approve a conditional use permit for construction of a heliport near 26 Mile Haines Highway by a sister company of Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures.

In a report provided to the assembly in April 2014, manager David Sosa recommended the group schedule a time to review various noise standards and select “an objective criteria before the study is conducted.”

“Of note, the FAA has set a threshold of 65 decibels, above which, residential land use is not compatible. Before authorizing this spending, the assembly may want to consider how they will use this data,” Sosa wrote.

That never happened. Now the borough has a final report, but no established criteria or standard to measure its results against, a criticism 26 Mile resident Jessica Plachta has repeatedly leveled against the borough.

Not establishing criteria ahead of time allows law or policy to be crafted around the study’s results, instead of having the study determine whether noise from a helicopter violates a previously agreed-upon standard, Plachta maintains.

Highway resident Joe Ordonez also remarked on the absence of a comparative standard in his public comments on the study’s draft. “Without setting a standard, there is no way to decide whether or not this noise level is excessive,” Ordonez wrote.

The borough received about 20 comments on the draft study, most of them critical of the document’s findings and methodologies.

When the noise study was authorized, Sosa said it was his hope that the borough would “come out of this with some legislation or planning code that is acceptable to the community.”

Assembly members who supported the study said they hoped its results would help remove subjectivity from what constitutes “undue noise,” and would offer objective data to be used for decision-making.

At last week’s Government Affairs and Services Committee meeting, Sosa again floated the idea of creating noise legislation during a discussion about assembly priorities.

“Do we want to tackle having a sound policy, a noise policy for the borough that is not just associated with helicopters, but just in general? Is that something we want to take a look at? Because that is going to take a lot of work to put together,” he said.

The question is pressing, as Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures has resumed its push for another conditional use permit at 26 Mile as part of its plan for a $5.5 million “eco-lodge” at the site. (The permit issued in 2014 had a one-year limit.)

SEABA’s sister company, Big Salmon Ventures, submitted a conditional use permit application to the planning commission in August.

SEABA owner Scott Sundberg withdrew the application after Sosa recommended the commission postpone its decision “until the noise study is complete and the borough has had an opportunity to develop clear standards of acceptable noise thresholds.”

Highway resident Plachta is currently engaged in a lawsuit against the borough. She appealed the assembly’s decision to issue the initial conditional use permit, overturning a previous planning commission decision that rejected it.

The borough attorney has submitted a motion in court to dismiss Plachta’s case against the municipality. The motion claims the suit is no longer relevant, as the one-year period for the conditional use permit at issue expired in March.

Plachta has opposed the dismissal. The judge hasn’t yet made a ruling on the borough’s motion.

Mead and Hunt, the Oklahoma-based architectural and engineering firm responsible for the study, will present its results to the assembly at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23.