Opposition To Mt. Baldy Cell Tower Takes Form

(July 5) Opposition is forming to Verizon’s application to construct a cell phone tower near the trout ponds at Mt. Baldy Village.
Verizon’s application for the tower has been submitted to the San Bernardino County Land Use Services Division and is being processed for a public hearing likely to take place late this summer.
Verizon was required to make public notice of the application, which alerted residents of Mt. Baldy Village. Several local residents spontaneously formed a group, known as the Keep Baldy Wild Coalition, to oppose Verizon’s application.
“We oppose the proposal submitted by Verizon to construct a cell phone tower by the trout ponds at Mt. Baldy Village,” Steve Sacks, the coalition’s spokesman, stated.
Sacks said his group’s opposition is not to the erection of a tower that will enhance communication service to the Mt. Baldy area but rather to the location Verizon has chosen.
“We are working to minimize the potential harmful biological effects of radio frequency radiation exposure from cell phone towers and antennae by applying the principle of prudent avoidance and advocating a tower placement that serves the needs of search and rescue and the fire department and is at least 3,000 feet from human habitation,” Sacks said.
In its application for the cell tower and its promotion of the project, Verizon has touted it as one that would provide better service to its customers and enhance safety by increasing communication coverage and facilitating the rescue of lost or injured hikers.
Sacks, however, disputed that, saying “Their proposal would only provide cell signals in Baldy Village, where Verizon stands to make money.  Verizon’s proposed tower would not cover the rugged terrain where hikers might need help. That is why the Keep Baldy Wild Coalition advocates an alternative site, far enough from residences and sensitive habitats to be safe, but with better coverage for hiking areas. We believe that such sites exist, and that it is up to Verizon to do engineering studies to prove their viability.”
According to Sacks, “The area surrounding the proposed cell tower site is a unique transitional chaparral/woodland/forest habitat for numerous plant and animal communities, including amphibians, snakes, migratory and year-round bird populations. Sensitive species among all of these categories also find refuge in this habitat. In addition, a declining population of Nelson Big Horn sheep drinks from San Antonio Creek nearby. These animals will be exposed to radio frequency radiation as they travel their traditional route down the hillside and while they drink. Mt. Baldy is currently a refuge area from radiation, for both humans and animals. We know that the health and fertility of animals can be affected by radiation.”
Sacks said that in addition to the risks posed to the wildlife in and around Mt. Baldy Village, the cell phone tower represents a health hazard to the village’s residents.
“Cell phone towers are associated with higher cancer rates,” he said. “The World Health Organization classifies radio frequency radiation as Category 2B, which is possibly a carcinogen to humans. No safe level of radio frequency radiation has been determined.”
Verizon referred questions about the safety of cell towers to the Federal Communications Commission, which has set health and safety guidelines for their size, power and placement.
Sacks said “Federal Communications Commission safety limits never anticipated wireless technology health impacts and do not protect against the biological effects of radio frequency radiation. U.S. limits were established by the telecom industry and are amongst the least protective in the world.”
Obliquely alluding to the presence of the U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Mt. Baldy Village, Sacks suggested that a wider base of opposition to the cell tower may yet manifest.
“The International Association of Firefighters opposes cell towers on or near fire stations, citing slowed reflexes, headaches, and loss of concentration with cell towers near fire stations,” he said.

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