Northwest NEWS

December 25, 2000

Features

Residents fear cell tower would threaten Bear Creek ecosystem

by Wendy Walsh
   Special to the Weekly
   When Tom Slade, Sprint Project manager opened the public meeting concerning a proposed cell tower on 208th NE, it was clear that he expected a battle from the 15 people in the audience. He followed a formulized agenda, announcing that this meeting was required by law, but was the only required meeting, and then got on to "housekeeping" items before finally introducing himself to the assembled group.
   Slade then addressed common concerns about site location, visual impact and need for the project.
   Ron Verschuyl, who lives on a neighboring property pointed out descrepancies in the design plans which were handed out.
   The drawings on each page didn't match, the heights varied, and some of the specific design details didn't match, Verschuyl said.
   Slade and other Sprint representatives conceded that these were just preliminary conceptual drawings, but did not represent the final project. Several members of the community asked if there would be further meetings when the application progressed and Slade said, "Probably not, as we are only required to have an initial public meeting."
   The site location is at 17114-208th NE in Woodinville, which is a quiet dead-end road, deemed ideal for situating a 160-foot tower.
   However, there are serious environmental concerns mentioned by neighboring property owners because the site is approximately 500 feet from Bear Creek.
   The tower would be located within 50 feet of an important wetland which feeds into Bear Creek, a regionally significant salmonid resource stream. Under ESA regulations, chinook salmon are a priority, and strict protections within the ecosystem take precedence.
   In addition, the property in question already has exceeded the 35 percent clearing limitation, so further clearing for construction and maintenance would be beyond what is normally allowed.
   The audience questioned the Sprint personnel about site location, and suggested other possible locations in the neighborhood which wouldn't affect the Bear Creek ecosystem.
   Other concerns were about whether corrosion of engineering materials would leech into the ecosystem.
   There were many questions about frequency, electromagnetic fields and other technical issues.
   Chad Tibbets of DDES took notes in preparation for review of the Sprint application when it is submitted.
   Right now, the tower is in the pre-application phase. He said that because of the communication needs, very often the SEPA requirements focus on mitigation rather than re-siting cell towers.
   He said that the wetland areas had not been noted on the DDES maps, but biologists would likely do a field inspection of the site before making any decisions.
   There were no strong objections to the concept of the cell tower, and people understood why Sprint thought it was necessary.
   The main objection was the location on an environmentally sensitive site.
   Sprint representatives remarked that other cell towers shared their facility with multiple providers but since they had "come late in the game," the towers were full, so they had to choose their own sites. There is no guarantee that this site wouldn't include more providers in the future.
   It was remarked that Sprint had located another tower at the corner of Avondale and Bear Creek Road in a wetland area near Cottage Lake Creek. Often property owners are agreeable to this kind of use as the property is otherwise unuseable.
   However, the question remained about how Sprint considered environmental issues when choosing a site.
   Although there will be no more meetings with Sprint, concerned citizens can communicate with DDES regarding the progress of the application by calling (206) 296-7194.