Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Cell tower at odds with law


I am writing to express my concerns on many levels about the proposed cellular communications tower on Galena Pass. The tower, as proposed by the Idaho Tower Co., would be 90 feet tall, be built to simulate the shape of a tree and would have a 400-square-foot service building.

To begin such a tower is at odds with Public Law 92-400, which designated the Sawtooth National Recreation Area with the intent to "assure the preservation and protection of the natural, scenic and historic, pastoral and fish and wildlife values ...". The proposed tower represents none of these values and in many ways detracts from the natural and scenic beauty of the area.

On another level, I believe the process of the proposed tower to be flawed. Typically, the Forest Service requires that a master plan be submitted in significant matters. A wireless communications network is certainly significant especially when it involves 90-foot towers placed throughout a scenic corridor. To date, a master plan for this network has not been filed, although other tower sites are certainly being investigated.

Although it has been claimed that the proposed tower would scarcely affect the view corridor from Highway 75, I find that to be of little assurance. With the pine bark beetle wreaking havoc in the area there may soon be no tall trees to offer screening. Such a structure would certainly be visible to the numerous winter and summer recreationists who pass by the site every year.

There is certainly an argument for safety through cell phone coverage, but there is proof that cell phone use and motor vehicle use don't mix. A University of Utah study showed drivers talking on cell phones to be as impaired as drivers with a .08 blood-alcohol content (legally drunk in most states). With the mix of winding roads, cyclists, wildlife, snow and ice, can we afford to have motorists who perform at the same level as drunk drivers?

Don Shepler

Ketchum




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