High Court refuses to review BWCAW cell phone tower caseThe Minnesota Supreme Court has decided not to review a decision of the Minnesota Court of Appeals allowing AT&T to erect a 450-foot cell phone tower near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
The Minnesota Supreme Court has decided not to review a decision of the Minnesota Court of Appeals allowing AT&T to erect a 450-foot cell phone tower near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The request for review was made by the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, which initially won its case against the tower in a lower court. The Supreme Court weighed in with its refusal on Aug 21.
The environmental group, which states as its mission “to protect, preserve and restore the wilderness character of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the Quetico-Superior Ecosystem,” had won a District Court decision holding that building the tower violated the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act because it would have a material impact on the scenic and esthetic resources of the protected wilderness.
In June, however, the state appellate court reversed that, deciding in AT&T’s favor. With the High Court’s refusal, the appeals court decision stands.
“We plan to go ahead and start construction this week or next,” said Alex Carey, of AT&T Corporate Communications-Minnesota and Northern Plains States. The new tower will take about a year to erect, he said, and when completed, a 150-foot tower now serving the area will be removed.
“There will be no interruption of service to our customers,” Carey continued, adding that the new tower will enhance cell phone coverage in the area at a lower cost than erecting two shorter towers, as was suggested by Friends of the Boundary Waters.
The Friends of the Boundary Waters responded by calling the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case “a disappointment and a loss for all of Minnesota’s protected natural resources,” a statement on its website read.
“This tower is contrary to Minnesota’s values of environmental stewardship,” it read.
With its appeal lost, Friends of the Boundary Waters has called on AT&T to leave an existing 199-foot tower in place, and not build the 450-foot tower.
“The 450-foot tower will not provide more coverage to the Boundary Waters compared to the 199-foot tower,” reads the statement, which quotes the decision of the district court. “The district court found both the 199-foot and the 450-foot tower leave ‘the vast majority of the BWCAW without cell coverage, with only a marginal difference between the two.’”
AT&T plans to move forward, however.
“We’re glad this case is resolved,” Carey said. “AT&T is a big proponent—and always has been a big proponent of preserving natural resources, but we believe the tower will add to public safety and quality of life in the area.”