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Corps-approved tower sitings don’t require separate FCC EA, NAB urges

The NAB last week filed comments with the FCC urging the agency not to require an environmental assessment (EA) when siting a communications tower in wetland areas under certain circumstances.

The comments were filed in regards to a Feb. 4 request from Stokes Environmental Services seeking a declaratory ruling from the commission that its rules don’t require submitting such an assessment when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “has reviewed, approved and permitted” the building of a tower in a wetland.

In its reply comments filed March 22, the trade association said it agreed with other comment filers, including Sprint, Cingular Wireless, Verizon Wireless, PCIA, and the Wireless Infrastructure Association, that the existing rules and public policy already hold that projects given Corps approval shouldn’t require an EA filing with the commission.

The trade association also agreed with Sprint that the commission previously addressed the matter in a case involving Weigel Broadcasting. In that instance, the FCC dismissed an objection to the company siting a TV tower in a flood plain without first submitting an EA because the Corps had “taken responsibility for determining the environmental effect to the wetlands of the proposed construction of an anchor point in the flood plain,” thus eliminating the need for Weigel to submit an EA to the commission.

The NAB agreed with Sprint and Cingular and said that in this case there is no need for a declaratory ruling because such commission actions are only required when there is “an issue at controversy.”

The filing pointed out that before the Corps permits construction in a wetland area “it performs a full National Environmental Policy Act review, which includes numerous safeguards and opportunities for public input.” Requiring an EA filing when another agency with expertise in environmental protection takes responsibility for protecting the environment “makes little sense,” the NAB comments said. As a matter of public policy, the FCC “should not require duplicative and unnecessary compliance procedures.” For broadcasters, specially outfitted transmission towers occasionally serve as ENG receive sites.

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