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Should Phone Company Be Allowed To Raise 80-Foot Tower Inside Glacier National Park?


CenturyLink, the phone company previously known as Qwest Communications, is seeking approval to erect a roughly 80-foot-tall telecommunications tower inside Glacier National Park at the park's St. Mary administrative area.

According to a park release, the tower would service the greater St. Mary area and is part of a larger statewide initiative through the Montana Public Service Commission to upgrade telecommunications facilities to small rural exchanges in Montana.

Glacier officials are seeking public comment on this proposal through February 3. CenturyLink is paying for the park to conduct an environmental assessment on the proposal.

The telecommunication capacity in the St. Mary area, both inside and outside the park, is currently inadequate to support resident, visitor, and government internet demands, according to a park release. The new tower is designed to upgrade the area’s telecommunication capacity to a modern standard and improve the reliability and speed of internet access.

The Park Service’s existing 50-foot radio tower in St. Mary would be removed and replaced with a new, approximately 80-foot tall microwave antenna and radio support structure. The new tower would be constructed of steel lattice supported on a concrete footing, and would include a 6-foot diameter microwave dish for CenturyLink and up to three National Park Service antennas.

The new structure would be located next to the existing park telecommunications building in the St. Mary administrative area, and the microwave feed wiring would be connected to the existing CenturyLink equipment building. The new structure would be designed to provide a direct line of sight to the CenturyLink Divide Mountain transfer station.

To date, two alternatives have been identified: 1) The no-action alternative, and 2) an action alternative that would remove the existing National Park Service radio tower and install a new tower.Comments and concerns on the proposed project should be submitted by Friday, February 3. Comments can be posted online at this site, or may be mailed to: Superintendent, Glacier National Park, Attn:  St. Mary Microwave Tower Proposal, P.O. Box 128, West Glacier, MT, 59936.

There will be another opportunity to comment on the project when the environmental assessment is completed.


Again, I think The National Park System should come up with  a Building code requirement for all parks that make the structures blend in the best way possible. When I take photos, I hate finding towers, etc in the background. A fake tree while not perfect, beats the alternative. Here is another link that shows some antenna and other towers that were built to meet community building codes, many of these were in our country.

I'll try to get a photo of the one in Ogden Canyon.  I think it's all steel.

Lee Dalton:
I was just driving up Ogden Canyon a few days ago and realized for the first time that a "tree" up there is really a cell tower. It's been there for several years, but I had not noticed until now.

Camoflauge. It could work in Glacier, too. (And Old Faithful and probably a lot of others as well.)

   I don't know if it's a good idea to camouflage a microwave tower, but I guess it's been done. I've heard these things can burn things that are too close. I've heard urban legends about people who thought it would be a good idea to sunbathe next to one of those microwave drums and suffered severe burns. These things are very directional, so it's not as if they're shooting waves everywhere. They're designed to hit a specific spot.

In any case, here's a photo:

You can somewhat make out the drum and some antennas at the top, as well as the brackets for telco workers to climb up, although I understand that these aren't allowed on new poles in the US (the photo is from China).

For those who didn't notice it, there is a side link that points to a brochure. It show a photo of the current tower, includes a description of the plan, and has a diagram of the line of sight transmission of the proposed microwave signals.

Apparently this is not about cellular phone service, but more about bringing in broadband internet access and possibly routing regular phone service using microwave transmissions. The brochure makes note that the park and local residents primarily get their internet service via "cellular modems", which probably means in a similar fashion to how internet traffic is performed over cellular networks with cell phones or other electronics that can connect to a cellular network (like certain Kindle or iPad models). It also says that some use satellite internet, which I understand can be very expensive.

It sounds like the alternative to achieve the same thing would be to bring in physical cabling like copper or optical cable. I don't know if they have current phone lines where they might be able to share any existing towers or conduits, or whether current phone service is connected to CenturyLink via lower capacity radio transmissions.  If you're worried about it being ugly, the current tower is a pretty ugly but utilitarian.

There are some peaks I hike that have communications towers with similar microwave drums. The following is just east of Berkeley and is at a point with line of sight to both sides of the Berkeley Hills.

Of course this is a major metropolitan area near hundreds of thousands of people. This photo shows four towers with about two dozen microwave dishes. The proposal at Glacier seems to be for a single tower with a single dish to connect to a single repeater.

I, too, think that it would be better to get the tower(s) in parks to blend in as much as possible, such as with the fake tree ones.

I was just driving up Ogden Canyon a few days ago and realized for the first time that a "tree" up there is really a cell tower.  It's been there for several years, but I had not noticed until now.

Camoflauge.  It could work in Glacier, too.  (And Old Faithful and probably a lot of others as well.)

And EC, you're dead right even if your comment was in the wrong place.

The new tower is to increase phone and Internet service into the park, not to increase cell phone service. This is for 911 calls and other support for the park.

My suggestion would be to come up with a building code for National Parks that requires towers to blend in. Please check out the fake trees that are really cell towers on this link;

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