Judge: AT&T must build shorter tower near BWCA
A Hennepin County, Minnesota, judge on August 3 ruled AT&T cannot build a 450-foot lighted cellphone tower visible within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness but can erect a 199-foot unlit tower in the same area.
In a 58-page decision, District Judge Philip Bush wrote that the 450-foot tower and its flashing lights "would adversely, materially and significantly impair the scenic view and aesthetic resources of the BWCAW," as well as be potentially harmful to migratory birds.
The Friends of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which sued AT&T last year to block construction of the taller tower and urge building of a smaller tower, see the decision as a victory, according to The Minneapolis Star Tribune.
"This is a major victory for the hundreds of thousands of people who visit the Boundary Waters every year, and for the wilderness's scenic vistas and wildlife," Paul Danicic, executive director of the friends group, said in a press release.
AT&T argued that the taller tower was vital for public safety to provide cellphone service to residents and visitors. AT&T had acquired the necessary permits from Lake County.
Bush's ruling cited a Court of Appeals order that found the visibility of a 185-foot tower in the Lower St. Croix Riverway was "substantial evidence" of an adverse visual impact. The Koochiching County Board recently unanimously denied AT&T permission to build a 350-foot tower 3.5 miles from the edge of Voyageurs National Park. And a court upheld the Duluth City Council's denial of a 195-foot tower in a wooded residential neighborhood.
Bush denied a request by the Boundary Waters' friends group to permanently restrain AT&T from building any towers that could be seen from within the Boundary Waters. A spokesman for the company declined to say whether AT&T would appeal the decision or build the smaller tower, the newspaper reported.
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