Supreme Court Ruling Sought for Cell Tower

The Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness has petitioned the Minnesota Supreme Court to review an appeals court ruling on a cell tower to be constructed near the BWCAW.

Find Minnesota Public Radio’s story on the issue HERE.

The wilderness advocacy organization hopes Minnesota’s highest court will overturn the lower court’s decision to allow the 450-foot tower proposed by AT&T to be built on a ridge near Fall Lake, east of Ely, MN and close to the BWCAW boundary. The Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness’ petition argues that the Court of Appeals misinterpreted the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act in ruling that the proposed tower would not have significant impact because it would only affect a small portion of the wilderness.

AT&T has argued that the tower is the best means of expanding cellular service to people living east of Ely and for visitors to the BWCAW.

In 2010, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness brought the original suit claiming AT&T’s tower would violate the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act. The group claimed the flashing lights on the tower would be visible from several lakes and waterways in the wilderness area. Last summer, District Court Judge Philip Bush barred construction of tower, saying the tower and its lights would “impair the scenic view and aesthetic resources of the BWCAW.”

The three-judge panel reversed Bush’s decision last month, saying  “the district court erred in concluding that the proposed tower would have a materially adverse effect on the environment.” At issue were aspects of MERA, which allows private citizens to sue to protect the state’s natural resources.

“The 450-foot tower that AT&T wants to build next door to the Boundary Waters would be visible on several wilderness lakes, some up to 10 miles away,” Paul Danicic, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness executive director, said in a media release. “The company has viable alternatives which were identified in court. We believe allowing this tower would set us down a slippery slope of impairing the wilderness without consideration of the thousands of people who cherish its wild character.”

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the petition by fall.

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