The Office of Emergency Services (OES) has heard our voices loud and clear, and has decided not to put an emergency communications tower in Redwood National Park. The initial proposal called for three towers ranging from 120 to 270 feet, one of which was proposed inside the boundaries of Redwood National Park. But thanks to the 1,451 EPIC members from 32 states and 28 countries who spoke up by sending comments through EPIC’s two action alerts, none of the towers will be built within Redwood National Park. Instead, the towers will be built at alternative locations outside of the park.
The approved project includes three new towers to replace and provide the same level of coverage as the Red Mountain communications site, which must be removed due to its location within the Helkau Ceremonial District, a site that is sacred to the Yurok Tribe. The towers will provide coverage in the remote and rugged region within the Yurok Reservation, as well as Redwood National Park and surrounding areas that do not have cell phone reception. The emergency communication towers will be for use by state, federal and local law enforcement, transportation, fire, medical and resource agencies. Once the Red Mountain site is cleaned up, the Yurok Tribe will once again be able to access their sacred site and begin holding ceremonies as their ancestors have since time immemorial.
The 5 alternatives that were considered in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) include:
- Alternative 1: Rodgers Peak (Redwood National Park), Rattlesnake Peak and Alder Camp.
- Alternative 2: Same as Alternative 1, except Rodgers Peak site would expand clearcutting from 1.5 acres to ~3.9 acres to install a solar array as a primary power source.
- Alternative 3: Rodgers Peak would not be developed under this alternative. Rattlesnake Peak and Alder Camp would be the same as Alternative 1 and Green Diamond 1 and Orick sites would also be developed for a total of 4 towers.
- Alternative 3a: Rattlesnake Peak, Alder Camp and Green Diamond 1 sites would be developed. Green Diamond 1 site is clearcut.
- Alternative 3b: Identical to Alternative 3a except Green Diamond 2 site would replace the proposed Green Diamond 1 site. The Green Diamond 2 site is clearcut and a portion of the parcel is located within the Coastal Zone. However, the tower would be built outside of the coastal zone.
- Alternative 4: No Project Alternative. Decommissioning activities would be implemented at Red Mountain, and the sacred site would be restored consistent with existing permits issued to the State by the USFS. None of the proposed sites would be developed and the entire region would lose emergency communication services.
The tower locations that have been approved in the Final EIS include Rattlesnake Peak, Alder Camp and Green Diamond 2. The Initial Scoping Notice only proposed one alternative that included Redwood National Park. After over 600 comments poured in, OES developed a range of alternatives, with Alternative 1 identified as the proposed project, but after hearing from community input in the form of the second round of hundreds of public comments requesting that the agency avoid building a tower in Redwood National Park, the OES went with Alternative 3b, which includes Rattlesnake Peak, Alder Camp and Green Diamond 2. The Green Diamond 2 location is partially within the coastal zone; however, the location of the proposed tower would not be in the coastal zone, and is in an area that is already clearcut.
Although significant unavoidable impacts will be made to the visual resources of Lyons Ranches Historic District, the OES has issued a Statement of Overriding Considerations along with its project approval, finding that the project benefits (providing emergency services communications and cleaning up a sacred site) outweigh the impacts of replacing the red mountain tower with three new towers that affect the viewshed of the surrounding areas.