Due to public outcry from Moyie residents, a communications tower will not be replaced after the RDEK board of directors voted down the measure during a monthly meeting on Friday.
Rob Gay, the chair of the RDEK board, who is also the director for Area C that includes the Moyie region, urged the directors to vote against the measure to respect the wishes of his constituents.
The existing site, just off Highway 3/95 that dissects the Moyie Townsite, already features a building and a tower that has been condemned for the 10 years.
The existing tower, which was first installed decades ago, was originally used to receive television signals through the use of microwave transmission, according to Gay.
However, there was opposition to the construction of a new tower — which will improve access to internet services and communications with emergency services — during a public hearing a few weeks ago in Moyie, said Gay.
“There was a groundswell of the public that were concerned about microwave and whatnot,” Gay told the directors before the vote. “It’s a bit ironic for me because they’re replacing an existing microwave tower and the transmitter on this [new] tower is actually going to be higher, so it’ll be less of an impact, but it didn’t matter.”
Even if the RDEK passed the bylaw amendment to build the new tower, the Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation would not have built it without the blessing of the community, said Gay.
Opposition to the construction of a new tower centred on criticism such as an improper location and concerns about the effects of microwave transmission on health.
“We don’t need the benefit of definitive science to protect ourselves and our children,” wrote Mike Slute, a Moyie resident and director of the Moyie Community Association, in a letter submitted to the RDEK.
“While science and industry debate the issues, we have no intention of allowing ourselves and our children and our grandchildren to be used as guinea pigs in some grand scientific experiment.”
However, there were letters of support as well.
“I am in favour of the bylaw amendment,” wrote Darlene Jeffrey. “We all rely heavily on internet in our everyday use. The location of the tower does not have an impact, it is at the back of Moyie townsite and blends in with the trees and mountain.”
According to the public hearing report, there were 11 respondents who were supportive of installing a new tower, but opposed to the location, while six were supportive of the proposed tower replacement.
It was an issue that Gay said he had to think a lot about, considering Moyie has always wanted to improve their communication infrastructure.
“So here, when we make the offer, they say it’s not good enough, and then during the [public] meeting, they said we’re not against that, it’s just we don’t want it there, go find another location,” said Gay.
“We can’t find another location.There was a couple other sites that were looked at, either there wasn’t electricity there or they weren’t within sight, because these microwave towers have to line up.”
Opposition to the tower was perplexing, given some residents at the hearing were using their cell phones during their presentations.
“In fact, one of the people was discussing why they were opposed to it and they were reading it off their phone and the technical guy said there’s more radiation off the phone than there is from the tower 100 feet in the air,” said Gay.