Concerned about spotty cell and internet service and emergency communications, officials in Napa County, California, are weighing a proposal to allow a private company to install telecommunication monopoles disguised as trees in county rights-of-way and get an early wildfire detection system for free.
According to a June 6 story in the Napa Valley Register, the county Board of Supervisors could decide whether to accept either at its June 15 meeting or in July. Meanwhile, Napa County citizens are being invited to look at materials revealing locations and possible environmental effects for about 23 cell tower monopoles and 11 fire detection sensor poles.
There’s been no public controversy about installing an early wildfire detection system, according the June 6 story. IQ FireWatch equipment could be on lattice poles 55 feet to 75 feet high at various locations and could locate smoke plumes in 90 percent of the county.
But some in the community disagree that the price should be allowing Illumination Technologies to install monopoles on county property, including in the heart of wine country. The company would lease these monopoles to telecommunications companies.
Opponents say the county should pay for fire-sensing equipment itself.
Illumination Technologies, in addition to covering installation costs for the FireWatch system, would pay operations and maintenance costs for 30 years, he said. The company would also work to obtain permission for sites on private property.
Proponents see a benefit besides the free FireWatch system. They say the existing network of cell towers in the county leaves holes in telecommunications that the Illumination Technologies project would fill.
Meanwhile, opponents have voiced a variety of reasons they think the county should be wary—including the possibility that the cell towers would increase wireless radiation risk and the aesthetic issue of “large fake trees” in wine country.
There is no strong evidence radiofrequency waves from cell towers cause cancer or other noticeable health effects, according to the American Cancer Society. However, the group said, more research is needed to be sure. The FCC on its website concluded that to be exposed to radiofrequency levels beyond agency guidelines, someone would have to be within the main transmitting beam a few feet from the antenna for several minutes. It called this possibility “extremely remote.” But some question whether FCC standards dating back to 1996 are good enough.
Telecommunication monopoles would be made to resemble evergreens and other trees. The FireWatch poles would be poles only, without the faux branches.
Source: Napa Valley Register