Not Porter, but Mormon Peak...


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Posted by Dezdan on May 16, 2002 at 17:55:33:

In Reply to: Tower/Structure Atop Porter Peak? posted by Jim on May 16, 2002 at 13:31:46:

Found the article I read about it from. This comes from PEEReview Winter 2001 (Warning: very one side, eco-nazi article ahead!)

~Dezdan

Microwaves in the Wilderness:

"The telecommunications revolution creates new environmental challenges: from disposal of heavy metals in old computers to an exploding network of fiber optic cables. One of these modern challenges is the need for telecommunications companies to locate microwave relay towers at the highest possible points. In cities, skyscrapers serve well but in rural areas, isolated mountaintops are sought for their electronic, not their scenic, vistas.
        One such spot is Mormon Peak which lies at the edge of the Death Valley National Park Boundary and Wilderness 15, a vast area of nearly 3.1 million acres designated "wilderness" under the California Desert Protection Act of 1994. In 1982, Pacific Bell (since acquired by Southwest Bell Corporation or SBC), obtained a right-of-way for a microwave tower on Mormon Peak. In 1994, when the area was designated wilderness and transferred to the National Park Service, by its terms the right-of-way was extinguished. Under the Wilderness Act, any renewal of the right-of-way now requires a full National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis.
        As with most other prior uses, Death Valley National Park Superintendent Richard Martin simply continued the pre-park status quo. So accommodating was Martin that SBC was able to obtain his permission to land helicopters in the wilderness to expand tower capacity by adding another 15 ft. to its 35 ft. stature. Martin did no NEPA review and even promised SBC a new right-of-way (until 2042), notwithstanding that such a renewal would violate the Wilderness Act and Park Service wilderness policy.
        In September, SBC escorted a Park Service biologist onto the site. During her short visit, the biologist identified rare plants just feet from the tower and found Native American house rings near the helicopter pad. Despite being less than an hourís walk from a boundary road, SBC insisted, and Superintendent Martin allowed all workers and equipment to be shuttled onto Mormon Peak by helicopter.
        Alerted by employees and Wilderness Watch, PEER Board Member Frank Buono, a former Park Service manager, and General Counsel Dan Meyer researched Mormon Peak and discovered that SBC had not disclosed its wilderness status to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Under the Commissionís rules, communications towers in wilderness areas are automatically subjected to an Environmental Assessment under NEPA.
        Citing violations of both commission rules and NEPA, PEER filed a civil complaint which the FCC promptly accepted for investigation. The Mormon Peak case, now docketed for decision, figures prominently in a nationwide review of FCCís compliance with NEPA. If successful, this complaint will lay the groundwork for challenging any communications infrastructure in wilderness areas, both pre-existing and proposed."




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