Public Employees Fight Tower Siting in ND National Park

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tr-parkOfficials of North Dakota’s only national park want to give Verizon a permit to locate a cell phone tower next to the state’s largest tract of land designated as a wilderness. A group representing park employees is fighting the move.

Verizon proposes to erect a 190-foot guyed tower supporting 4G cellular panels near an existing radio tower, reports the Sonora News. The new structure would replace the existing structure with a shorter pole.

The Theodore National Park has proposed no measures to minimize “signal spillover” across the rest of the area, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER.) The park’s rugged “Badlands” is where Roosevelt got away from civilization at certain periods of his life. The cell tower is “anathema” to the park’s mission to provide visitors solitude, peace and quiet, stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch in a regulatory filing submitted to the park.  

The Sonora News notes the permit process for the tower has been on and off, starting with Verizon’s first filed application in 2015. Comments on its re-application were due October 31.

The park republished its original Environmental Assessment without responding to comments about its plan violating several laws, such as the Wilderness Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, according to PEER. The group says the park ignores concerns expressed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about the tower’s potential negative effects on migratory birds, which prefers a non-guyed-tower.

PEER obtained internal documents about the project in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit showing officials intended to wait until issuing final approval to avoid raising possible mitigation measures to accommodate the carrier, Sonora News reports. PEER states the park “has behaved more like a subsidiary of Verizon than a public agency.”

November 11, 2016

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