Friday, February 15, 2008

Cell tower is needed

I have been reading the multiple letters to the editor regarding the proposed Galena cell tower and would like to address inaccurate and misleading information.

First, Scott Phillips compares the pending Galena stealth tree tower to the monopoles on Baldy Mountain. Denise Ford's compares the Galena tower to the 100-foot lattice tower on top of Della Mountain. Baldy and Della are relatively bald mountains, with no foliage growth. The 90-foot Galena monopine would be located on a ridgeline, among other pine trees, which will aid in camouflaging the site. The topography further hides the site from public viewing, as the site will only minimally be seen from Highway 75, for a very short stretch of road. The Galena monopine would simply not be the glaring sore thumb portrayed by Phillips and Ford.

Mr. Scott Phillips also states that alternative sites must be considered. Alternative sites were considered in the process of finding the most beneficial site location. However, the alternatives required multiple sites, road and power construction, and would be much more visible.

When finding a premier cell site, power and road access are part of the criteria, as well as running tests for optimal coverage accessible. The chosen Galena site contains all of these important features. The summit has already been serving as a communication location for many years, hosting a giant reflector and a building for Custer Telephone. Since 2003, the proposed tower has undergone much scrutiny from the Forest Service, radio frequency engineers and site acquisition crews.

Mr. Phillips makes the reference to the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act, stating the act's responsibility is to protect the area's visual quality. This act also ensures grazing uses. The vast acreage used for grazing creates more environmental and visual harm than the impact of the cell tower footprint on the surrounding area. The cell tower can actually aid in land management and the protection of resources by providing valuable communication services.

As the number of skiers increase at Galena, I support providing communication services that can potentially aid helping those unfortunate few who may be injured while recreating in this beautiful region. I'm not sure how accurate Mr. Phillip's projection of 5,000 to 6,000 annual skiers are for this area, but I believe providing a valuable safety feature overrides the concern for glimpsing the monopine while skiing by.

I applaud citizens like Mr. Ben Neff and Mr. Jim Banholzer for recognizing that cellular services are a vital public safety tool and should be utilized as a community service for the 1.5 million annual visitors to the area. Imagine for a moment that it was your loved one in need of a 911 phone call. Maybe then you would wish that the Galena cell tower was there to save your loved one's life.

Let's face it, today, most people have a cell phone or wireless Internet service. These services have become a daily utility and are no longer a luxury. Our personal lives and our business lives depend on these forms of communication systems. Ignoring that wireless infrastructure must grow so that we can all continue to enjoy their benefits whether they are for personal, business, or emergency use, is not practical.

Many of us have chosen to make this valley our home because we place a high value on the environment. Most of us who live here enjoy recreating in the Sawtooth National Forest and would be devastated if anything were to happen to it. It is our job as citizens to monitor development and make sure that it happens responsibly.

I believe it is responsible to have a 90-foot monopine at Galena Summit.

Kelly Kipling


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