Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Cell tower is ill-advised

The proposed 90-foot cell tower with a 970 square-foot building on Galena Summit is ill-advised. Stand most anywhere in downtown Ketchum and look at the top of Baldy where two imposing 60-foot towers dominate the skyline. Then imagine a 90-foot tower—that's nine stories—jutting up on Galena Summit. No amount of convoluted disguise as a "tree" will soften the obtrusive visual impact.

Congress passed Public Law 92-400, which established the SNRA in 1972. Both PL 92-400 and the Sawtooth Forest Management Plan appropriately have extremely high thresholds for protecting the visual resource. Galena Summit has never been designated as an official Forest Service communications site—and for all the right reasons.

There is also a Sawtooth Forest Visual Supplement endorsed by Forest Supervisor Ron Stoleson in the 80s that in effect says that 500 annual users on a travelway will trigger higher visual sensitivity levels. With the explosion in winter use there are an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 skiers each winter gliding right by the proposed site.

The whitebark pine and lodgepole pine are dying on this 8,700-foot exposed ridge. Realistically, no screening over 35 feet will soon be left. The Blaine County Commissioners object to the 90-foot tower height. The applicant seized on Galena Summit as his sole preference because it has a state (scenic!) highway, an approved Forest Service side road, electrical power in close proximity, and because it the cheapest location.

Forest Supervisor Jane Kollmeyer has ample law, documentation, and long-established visual policy to deny the 90-foot tower application as currently presented. Protection of the visual/scenic/recreational resource is crucial to the SNRA's statutory mission. A 90-foot Galena tower would open the floodgates for additional impacting towers. Incremental and cumulative effects have not been addressed. For goodness sake, protecting the visual quality on the Sawtooth Valley floor is an all-important central argument in stopping the terrible CIEDRA bill. It would seem logical that the Sawtooth Forest would absolutely hold the line on visual quality from within the agency.

Please urge Supervisor Kollmeyer to require the applicant to thoroughly pursue sensible alternative sites.

Scott Phillips


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