Nix to Dark Sky Designation
By Bob Parks, Executive Director, International Dark-Sky Association
Sedona, AZ – February 14, 2012 The International Dark-Sky Association has been asked to clarify its position
regarding the impact that the proposed 89a highway lighting project would have in regard to the International Dark Sky Places (IDSP) certification process.
In reviewing the history of the project, we are struck with the general lack of
concern by the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) for providing a
solution that will address the traffic safety concerns in an environmentally
responsible manner.The report by CivTech, dated December 2010, appears to
offer reasonable options that could address the safety concerns of the community
without the installation of continuous roadway lighting (CRL). In addition, this
report clearly identifies that the volume of traffic at night does not warrant CRL by
current IES RP-8 standards. However, ADOT has apparently chosen to ignore
these recommendations and install CRL that will significantly degrade the night
sky, waste energy, increase greenhouse gases and saddle the community with
substantial ongoing operating costs.
IDA recommends that outdoor lighting be used only when necessary, in only the
quantity necessary and directed to the area needed with proper shielding of the
fixtures. The proposed plan by ADOT only addresses the last criterion. We would
only recommend lighting the intersection outlined in the CivTech analysis plus the
adoption of the non-lighting recommendations. If CRL is used, it should be used at
the minimum illumination level necessary for the time of night and traffic load, and
turned off when the traffic load indicates that it is no longer necessary to provide
lighting. Using current IES recommended practices the switch off could easily
occur by 9 PM. Programmable timers could be installed to accomplish this for very
little cost and would result in vast savings in energy, costs, and greenhouse gases.
In any project of this size, cost and impact on the community, remediation methods
should be phased in and an analysis of their effectiveness should be made before
additional measures are installed. Under no circumstances should CRL be
considered as the first option.
This brings us to the crux of the issue related to the IDSP certification question.
“The IDSC designees must adhere to stringent standards that protect the natural
night sky through outdoor lighting plans and ensure the continuation of this
protection through planning and zoning directives. The following is the official
definition of an International Dark Sky Community: a town, city, municipality, or
other legally organized community that has shown exceptional dedication to the
preservation of the night sky through the implementation and enforcement of
quality lighting codes, dark sky education, and citizen support of dark skies. “
The fact that the City of Sedona appears to be unable or unwilling to take the
necessary measures to protect the night sky from future degradation would most
likely cause the IDSP committee to reject an application for International Dark Sky
Community (IDSC) status. IDSC status signifies a strong cooperation among all
the parties responsible for the protection of the night sky. It would appear that this
cooperation does not currently extend to ADOT, as they appear willing to install
unwarranted lighting. This clearly impairs the community’s ability to work
collaboratively to preserve the quality of the night sky.
To further clarify the criteria of the IDSC, the use of fully shielded lighting fixtures
alone does not qualify lighting as dark sky friendly. When and how much lighting
is used is also vitally important.
In closing, I sincerely hope that the City of Sedona can reach some accommodation
with ADOT to mediate what appears to be a contentious issue. The IDSC
certification can bring significant economic benefit to a community along with
justifiable pride and prestige. However, this prestige is often earned by the
substantial effort required to obtain the support of all the parties that must agree
that dark skies are worth protecting.