Cellphone towers a rural blight

I am writing to express concern about the proposed construction of a fourth telecommunication tower within 500 metres of our acreage near Rocky Mountain House.

I am writing to express concern about the proposed construction of a fourth telecommunication tower within 500 metres of our acreage near Rocky Mountain House.

We have lived on a quiet gravel road just five minutes from Rocky for 30 years. It is surrounded by family farms and offers a 180-degree view of the foothills and access to the Clearwater River.

Little could we imagine that these same features would make it a favourite site for locating telecommunication towers! Not one or two, but four!

Initially, Telus and Rogers towers were erected nearby. In 2004, a Bell West tower was erected on agriculture-zoned land. Now, an application from CCI is being made for an additional tower a short distance from the last one.

Industry Canada’s policies encourage owners of towers to share their towers with new operators in the area. The policy has no clout and co-location rarely occurs, so a new set of towers is required with each new operator.

Corridor Communications Inc., in conjunction with Rocky Gas Co-op and Rocky REA, are installing six to seven such towers in Clearwater County as part of their efforts to bring another Internet service to rural Alberta. We are members of both of the above co-operatives. We all enjoy the conveniences of cellphones and Internet services. However, a concentrated cluster of four towers in a small area is too many! There are two light industrial subdivisions within one to three km of this site, where this tower could be located.

I submitted my concerns to Clearwater County MPC in a letter Aug. 28. It has yet to make a decision, yet construction/site preparation has already started. Either the operator has little regard for due process, or considers it a “done deal.” The application for a development permit seems to be just a courtesy.

Public consultation is also just a formality. We have very little influence when and where these towers go. Each municipal, provincial and federal department seems to have influence over a very small piece of the puzzle. No one seems to be monitoring the big picture.

Industry Canada assures us that all operators follow Health Canada’s Safety 6 Code for compliance with regard to safety limits for human exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. Operators must also consider the combined effects of RF emissions from nearby installations.

Some tell me it’s very complicated; some tell me it’s as simple as a software program calculation. Actual measurements are not required by Industry Canada unless someone feels the limits are being exceeded; that is, a stakeholder other than the general public launches a formal complaint, and then is prepared to back it up by hiring their own diagnostic firm to take measurements.

Industry Canada has a policy (CPC-2-0-03) of concerns that are not relevant in any public dispute arising over the location of a tower. Questions whether the Radiocommunication Act, Safety Code 6, etc. are valid (that is, any health or compliance concerns) and the potential effects that a proposed antenna system will have on property values or municipal taxes are non-relevant.

And we think we live in a democracy! Since Industry Canada is the ultimate decision-maker in any dispute, it would seem that we have replaced the “flower power” of the 1960s with “tower power” in 2010!

Sharon Rubeling

Rocky Mountain House