The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Proposed tower unnecessarily tall


June 26, 2019


I want to thank the city, its workers, and all the volunteers that put in the time and effort to make our town beautiful.

From the remodel of Sankey Park to the murals and flowers that grace downtown’s Main Street, you can be justifiably proud of what you do every year to improve the livability of our hometown.

But there is one corporate neighbor who is going the other direction. Pacific Power is planning to erect a 180-foot radio tower in the middle of town, at 18th and Spruce.

The Sweet Home development codes limit the height of buildings to 100 feet. So Pacificorp is requesting a variance before the city Planning Commission on July 1 at 6:30 p.m. in the annex behind City Hall.

I urge anyone interested in the future appearance of downtown to attend this meeting and let their feelings be known to the Planning Commission.

For myself, I see the visual impacts of towers as unnecessary. After a career in electronics, I know that cell towers do not need to be as tall and it’s certainly not necessary to dominate the ridgetops like they do outside of this and many towns.

The Sweet Home codes forbid towers on exposed ridges, but the county does not. This growing urban techno blight is coming to our downtown unless we take action.

Like many who treasure Oregon’s landscapes, this battle is similar to the actions taken by concerned citizens in the 1960s, who watched as highway billboards blotted out the scenery. In this case, it’s the commercialization of our open skylines for a needless project.

You see, this is not going to be a cell tower for general public use. This 180-foot lattice tower will only serve one customer: the Falls Creek Hydro Project near Trout Creek campground. Pacificorp has demanded this tower to renew the project’s power purchase contract.

This is no relicensing issue. There are no jobs to be won or lost. It’s a contract demand between corporations.

The issue, Pacificorp claims, is the need to shut down the power plant within .2 seconds to prevent damage to the transformers. To do that, they want this tower and another tower near Tombstone Pass to relay the information that is now run over telephone lines.

They have refused to collocate on the nearby water tower and insist that a 180-foot tower inside the substation is the best idea.

This is the worst possible location for a 180-foot metal tower. During a Cascadia-type earthquake, this tower would have the unique ability to actually fall on the transformers it is supposed to protect.

While the power lines themselves can dampen earthquake oscillations and the lines limit to how far a pole can fall, this tower is freestanding, with no backup plan. A falling metal tower inside the substation would also have the ability to cross-connect distribution level voltages into home circuits. The combination of poor planning and a significant disaster will compound the damage to the substation and the community.

The reason for 180 feet, they say, is to clear Riggs Hill for a line-of -sight connection to the repeater at Huss Ridge. They have submitted a misleading graphic that illustrates the interference.

However, if you stand at the substation and look east, Riggs Hill does not encroach on the view from ground level, let alone 180 feet up. Also, the relatively low frequencies they propose to use do not need line-of-sight for reliable communications. Indeed, the Forest Service uses handheld portable radios on the same band to communicate between the campgrounds near the hydro plant and Sweet Home.

Pacific Power should rethink their proposal. A ground link is always more reliable than a radio link, especially in winter. There are poles all the way to the plant that can accommodate control wires. There are methods to transmit the data over the power lines themselves. However, they have ignored the application requirements to explore other technologies before a variance is granted.

The towers violate city codes and the location threatens public safety. The power plant has operated for 30 years without a problem that would justify the marginal improvement that they demand.

There is no benefit to the citizens of Sweet Home that we should have to endure 180 feet of ugly on our downtown skyline.

The Planning Commission should reject this variance application as a poor vision for the future of the city.

Tim Breeden

Sweet Home


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