Fernberg Tower decision was right first time
By: Susan Schurke, Ely , Lake County News Chronicle
The August court ruling on the Fernberg tower issue was a win-win for wilderness advocates and area cell phone users alike. The court agreed with concerns about a tall tower’s aesthetic impact on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and it approved a shorter, less visible tower after establishing that it would provide adequate cell service for Fernberg residents.
Issue resolved. Or so we thought. It’s unfortunate that fear-mongers are now leveraging misinformation about communication issues with Pagami Creek fire crews to reopen this issue.
The fact of the matter is that neither a short or tall tower on the Fernberg would have assisted the fire crews’ operational base near Kawishiwi Lake, which is nearly 25 miles beyond the projected coverage area. Consequently, a Fernberg tower also would not have eliminated the need for the mobile communications unit that AT&T provided to assist with fire crew communications.
Coverage maps produced for the court proceedings established that a tall tower would reach only 17 percent more coverage area than a short tower. That small bit of additional coverage involves wilderness or areas already covered by AT&T’s competitor Verizon. No Fernberg residents will be denied cell phone coverage because of a short tower.
The short tower serves our community needs fine and avoids a tall tower’s impact of pulsing lights on BWCAW campsites. The tall tower serves AT&T’s needs by positioning it to lure customers away from Verizon. Plus, AT&T can rent the extra tower space to other telecommunications companies. Why let AT&T degrade our wilderness in its battle with Verizon?
Support expressed by the Ely City Council, Lake County Board, and others for AT&T’s planned appeal of the court ruling only makes them pawns of AT&T and its effort to establish a legal precedent that may impact various national parks and wilderness areas with the encroaching lights of cell towers. Koochiching County rejected a similar AT&T cell tower proposal out of concern for its impacts on Voyageurs National Park.
The court’s ruling was a common sense solution. Those who continue to clamor for a tall tower are only playing into the hands of a corporation whose goal is to enhance its bottom line rather than the needs of our community or the aesthetic quality of a wilderness that is our area’s tourism nest egg. The message they’re sending AT&T is: “Feel free to exploit our gullibility for your corporate profits. We don’t care about environmental impacts.”
Hmmm … let’s hope these same folks aren’t sending a similar message to Polymet and Duluth Metals.