Telecom Magnate Wants More Desert Towers, Enlists Trump Administration

Tom Gammon, owner of Interconnect Towers, and former radio magnate with a colorful history in the communications industry, is lobbying the Trump administration to build towers in the desert, reported the Desert Sun. Gammon already constructed a 196-foot, freestanding tower in a desolate area, along California’s Interstate 40, serving AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon customers driving along the highway. Gammon hopes to build many more of these towers in California, Arizona, and Nevada deserts, extending coverage to stretches of highway that are currently dead zones.

However, Gammon is running into a challenge with an Obama-era conservation plan that protects millions of acres of open desert, making it difficult for him to build more towers. In 2015, Gammon’s company was the only one to oppose the plan, submitting detailed comments against it.  

But now there seems to be a second chance for Interconnect Towers. In February, President Trump’s Interior Department announced it will consider changes to the plan, which covers more than 10 million acres of public land in the California desert. Gammon has been pressing his case in Washington, D.C.

Some California politicians have slammed the Trump administration for putting the desert plan up for review. Thirty-eight U.S. House Democrats from California signed a letter, saying that reopening the plan would “undermine the careful balance between renewable energy development, conservation, and other multiple uses in the desert” and would “create new uncertainty, increasing costs for renewable energy and transmission development and jeopardizing California’s efforts to meet its clean energy goals,” reported the Desert Sun.

Some conservationists question the validity of Gammon’s complaints, saying his concerns are skeptical. Kim Delfino, California program director for Defenders of Wildlife, said Gammon is overstating the impacts of the new regulations. “We were surprised that Mr. Gammon was complaining so vociferously because we didn’t actually think that the [desert plan] was written in a way that would create a problem for him,” Delfino said.

Since 2010, Gammon’s Interconnect Towers has submitted 15 applications to the Bureau of Land Management for towers to be built on federal lands in the California desert. Gammon’s projects require a lengthy permitting process, and hundreds of thousands of dollars to build the infrastructure. “If you don’t have a lot of money, and 15- to 20-year patience…nobody wants to do it,” Gammon told the Desert Sun.

Read the full article here.

May 14, 2018         

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