By Gwendolyn Craig
The Town of Inlet will be less of a dead zone for cell service and emergency radio communications after the Adirondack Park Agency approved two new towers on Thursday. The towers, made to look like evergreens, are expected to bring relief to an area struggling to get reliable internet, cell service and even basic landline and radio wave communications.
The two towers will service T-Mobile and Cingular Wireless (AT&T) customers, and emergency responders in Hamilton and Herkimer counties. Over 200 comments submitted to APA supported the project, called Tarpon Towers. One will be 95-feet tall and the other 100-feet tall. They will be erected northwest of Limekiln Road and about 60 feet apart.
Linda Rosenbloom, a seasonal resident on Fourth Lake, wrote the APA that she had no cell service and her landline was out of service about 40% of the time. Her Frontier Communications internet had stopped working, so she switched to HughesNet. But that, too, had its challenges: She could not make calls over WiFi because of the satellite delay, she wrote in an August 2020 letter, the day after a drowning in Fourth Lake. Her neighbor had tried to call 911, but the landline was not working.
“One can only wonder if the outcome would have been different if 911 was reached sooner,” Rosenbloom wrote. “The concern over seeing a few cell towers among the six million acres of trees should not overshadow the health and safety of us and our neighbors.”
APA staff originally had four comment letters to review, all in favor. But on Thursday staff realized hundreds of comment letters had been delivered to the agency’s email spam folder. More than 200 pages were later added to the comment file for the project. Staff told the board the comments were overwhelmingly in support of the project.
Ariel Lynch of the APA said the project permits include vegetative easements to protect the majority of trees in the area. Twelve are expected to be removed for construction of the towers.
APA board members discussed cell towers for an hour last month. Some requested more information about whether signal strength would be affected if tower height changed. Lynch provided that information for the Inlet towers, showing that signal strength would weaken if the towers were shorter and would not change if they were taller.
“I love the fact that you took time to do the study of the lower or higher, so we’re not just doing it in the arbitrary fashion,” APA Chairman John Ernst said. “I thought the visuals were very persuasive.”
The towers unanimously passed.
Solar coming to Crown Point
The APA unanimously approved another solar project, a 1.5-megawatt installation near Lake Road in Crown Point. The arrays will be constructed on a 7.41-acre parcel east of Putts Creek Wildlife Management area and Lake Champlain.
The installation will also include five poles along a utility access area.
The APA received no comments on the project.
Board members had some concerns about the decommissioning plans of solar projects.
Board member Art Lussi asked how the agency would ensure there’s not a solar array blight in 25 years if the company responsible went bankrupt.
Sarah Reynolds, associate counsel for the APA, said that the agency needs to ensure there is limited to no impact on the environment, but the abilities of the agency are limited. The agency could use enforcement proceedings and work with the state Attorney General’s Office to get a court order.
“Let’s make sure it’s (decommissioning) being done,” Lussi said. “Plans are great, but if they’re not done in 25 years, obviously most of us are long gone, but I think the more I read about decommissioning the more I’m going to feel comfortable if we were smart enough to make sure they’re cleaned up when they’re done.”
After the project presentation, staff inserted a condition that said any changes to the decommissioning plan would require agency authorization. Staff presented the condition after the board had already voted on the project. Chris Cooper, APA counsel, had the board vote again with the condition added.