New Tower Construction Update Mainly for the Birds


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Over the past two years there have been some significant changes to the federal regulations governing the construction of new towers. Most of these changes have come in the form of additional environmental review as required by Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 and by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969.

The main problem, according to the avian community, is that certain species of birds are attracted to the red lights, mainly the old style that flash at a very low rate, which apparently disorient their natural guidance system. Particularly in the case of guyed towers, the probability of hitting the guy wires and tower are very high.

The FCC is also in the process of streamlining the application process for building wireless infrastructure. While most of this streamlining typically will affect only wireless/broadband carriers, there is a proposal to eliminate many of the barriers that prevented the deployment of temporary towers, particularly during declared public emergencies.

Before you apply for Antenna Structure Registration (ASR), members of the public must have the opportunity to comment on the potential environmental impact of your proposal. Rather than submitting a fully completed tower registration form (Form 854), you will need to submit a partially completed application and give local notice of the proposed structure through a local newspaper. Notification through the zoning public notice process may also suffice. Once the notice has been published, the FCC will post the partial application to its website. The public will have 30 days to post comments. Based on these public comments the FCC will make a determination of whether an Environmental Assessment (EA) will be required. This notification is required for any tower that requires an ASR.

Environmental notice is also required if you propose a change of lighting to an existing tower. If an EA is required for a proposed structure the EA will be considered in context of the entire structure, rather than a service specific, there is also an interim procedure that requires an EA for changes to any tower over 450'.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has also published guidelines and created a "tower site evaluation form" that will aid in the identification of potential flags in the EA process. The form is available at fws.gov/habitatconservation/tower_site_evaluation_form.pdf.

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