Supreme Court rejects cell tower appeal, allows construction of 450-foot tower

On August 21, 2012, the Minnesota Supreme Court denied the Friends’ request that the Court review the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling allowing AT&T to build a 450-foot cell phone tower on the edge of the BWCAW.  The Friends prevailed at the district court, which found AT&T’s proposed tower violated the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act because it would have a material impact on the scenic and esthetic resources of the protected wilderness of the Boundary Waters.

The Supreme Court’s decision not to review this case is a disappointment and a loss for all of Minnesota’s protected natural resources. This tower is contrary to Minnesota’s values of environmental stewardship.

In light of this decision, we call on AT&T to do the right thing—leave the existing 199-foot tower in place, and do not build the 450-foot tower.

If AT&T builds its 450-foot tower — a tower that will permanently mar the wild horizons of at least 10 Boundary Waters lakes — AT&T will forever be known as having championed a new and dangerous precedent that will allow it, little by little, tower by tower, to erode the scenic resources of our beautiful state.

AT&T’s continued assertion that a 450-foot tower will somehow enhance public safety in and around the Boundary Waters is false.  Here are the facts:

  • The 450-foot tower’s additional coverage would not extend to areas accessed by local residents or BWCAW visitors. Compared to the now existing 199-foot tower, AT&T’s 450-foot tower would provide additional coverage in uninhabited roadless areas that are either wooded or swamps.
  • The 450-foot tower would not provide more coverage to area residents than the 199-foot tower currently provides.  The 199-foot tower provides the same coverage for area residents compared to the 450-foot tower.
  • The 450-foot tower will not provide more coverage to the Boundary Waters compared to the 199-foot tower. The district court found both the 199-foot and the 450-foot tower leave “the vast majority of the BWCAW without cell coverage, with only a marginal difference between the two.”
  • Two 199-foot towers provide superior service to the single 450-foot tower.  A two-tower alternative, which the Friends has supported since the beginning, would provide “approximately 100.6% of the coverage of the single 450-foot [tower],” according to the district court, and would extend coverage to the end of the Fernberg Road.

Minnesotans should be very concerned with this proposed tower, and they should be very worried about the other scenic, historic and cultural resources that are now at risk of being defaced by AT&T’s towers.

We are seeking additional resources to continue to protect and defend the Boundary Waters’ vistas and prevent the 450-foot tower from being built.  We welcome support from anyone concerned about this issue and encourage donations here.

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