Cook County Rejects Towers That Would Be Visible in the Boundary Waters

Two proposed radio towers in northern Minnesota have been shortened, after concerns were raised about visual impacts on the Boundary Waters and the surrounding landscape.

Instead of the original lighted 330-foot towers, the Minnesota Department of Transportation agreed to build the towers 200 feet high, WTIP reported. The change in plans came after the Cook County Board and residents said the towers would violate the county’s land use plan, and their safety lights could be seen from inside the wilderness.

The towers are part of the statewide ARMER (Allied Radio Matrix Emergency Response) network, which is being built by MnDOT and the Department of Public Safety to provide unified communications for first-responders from a variety of agencies.

According to WTIP, “Three individuals spoke in opposition to the tower height variance during the public comment period. Jim Raml and Ted Young, both long-time residents of the Upper Gunflint Trail, expressed concern over the negative visual impact the taller, illuminated towers will have on the wilderness experience of visitors.”

In January, the board considered the towers and decided to ask MnDOT to present and answer questions before deciding. At that time, commissioners voiced concerns about wilderness impacts and potential litigation. Commissioner Garry Gamble said he has heard that the Friends of the Boundary Waters have already drawn maps with sight lines from the prospective towers to lakes in the BWCAW where the flashing red lights could be seen,” the Cook County News Herald reported.

A MnDOT representative told the county board that the shorter towers will provide the necessary coverage for the ARMER system. The towers will be constructed on the Sawbill and Arrowhead Trails. Another tower is also under consideration near Sea Gull Lake on the Gunflint Trail.

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