An application has been submitted to Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO) for use of a small parcel of land on Heriot Ridge for a communications tower. There are several concerns about this, including concerns about mistakes in the application and the procedure, in addition to concerns about the usage and the site chosen. There is some confusion about this, so it’s best to go through this in order of history.
The Quadra Fire Department and RCMP have communications needs which are provided by a company called North Island 9-1-1 Corporation (http://www.nisl911.bc.ca/). Pagers are low power devices and (like cell phones) do not have coverage for some parts of Quadra. Brian Pearson of 911corp did a survey of possible locations on Quadra which would be suitable for an antenna for their radio system. Their criteria for suitable locations are not the same as those a cell-phone company would use. In particular, they would like their antenna not just on top of a ridge, but also at the edge of a cliff, so that they get good line-of-sight down to the desired coverage areas, such as Heriot Bay.
They approached North Island Communications Inc (http://www.nicomm.com/) to build and operate a radio communications tower for their needs. North Island Communications then applied for Crown Land Tenure. In their application, they list the services that this tower will provide:
- 2 way radio repeater for RCMP
- 2 way radio repeater for North Island 911 Corporation
- microwave relay for the City of Campbell River
- 2 way radio repeater for the Amateur Radio Society for the purpose of emergency services
- other future services, possibly including a cell carrier
Their application is for a small site, for a 25 meter tower and a small hut. They say power will be green and derived from solar and wind sources.
This document was not included in the MFLNRO web site for this application. You can read it here: Quadra communications tower.pdf
At this point several things have already gone wrong. When the site was surveyed before the application was submitted, it should have been noted that the site was already occupied by the gazetted Hope Springs Road Heriot Ridge trail and viewpoint. Officially the trail is 20 meters wide. Also the MFLNRO person in Campbell River who is responsible for trails should have been notified. The SRD was notified.
The first time most Quadra residents heard about it was in Jim Abram’s Regional Director’s Report (gumboot 8 July 2013 and D.I. 12 July 2013):
I have since asked for a meeting with Telus in Victoria to get the latest scoop and go over the proposal from North Island Communications to lease space to Telus on the tower that they have just been granted approval to build behind Heriot Bay Ridge. This tower will theoretically cover much of the north east island and Read Island. It is in the hands of Telus planners and I will meet with the Area manager to see where we are at.
There are three problems here. The location is not “behind Heriot Bay Ridge”, it has not yet been granted approval, and Telus has shown no interest in using it.
In the same issue of the D.I., the notice of application appeared on page 19. It also has problems. There was a typo in the applicants e-mail address. It should have two m’s. email@example.com and it did not make clear exactly where the tower would be and it did not make it easy to find this application on the MFLNRO web site.
If you search as the ad suggests, use the 1414136 number, not the 10100-30/108603 number. But it is easier to just go here: http://arfd.gov.bc.ca/ApplicationPosting/viewpost.jsp?PostID=41605
Then, to top it off, the advert gave the wrong closing dates for comments. MFLNRO quickly agreed to use the later date, the one in the advert, 31 August 2013, but they did not get around to correcting the date on their website very quickly, causing confusion. They have done that now. The closing date is 31 August 2013. Comments can be made via that website or can be sent by e-mail to AuthorizingAgency.Nanaimo@gov.bc.ca
When Richard Leicester, of the Quadra Trails Committee, learned of the tower location he contacted MFLNRO and arranged for a site visit. Representatives from MFLNRO, North Island Communications, the Trails Committee, and the Quadra Island Outdoor Club met and walked the Hope Springs Road trail to the proposed tower location. This was a very productive meeting. North Island Communications was not aware that they had chosen the trail viewpoint for their tower, nor that that area of Heriot Ridge had been set aside as a Sensitive Area in 2003. They were quite willing to explore alternative locations for the tower. A nearby site was looked at and deemed acceptable to all present. North Island Communications agreed to either withdraw and resubmit an application for a different site or else to amend the current application for a different site. More surveying will need to be done first. North Island Communications agreed that a public meeting should be held as soon as possible to get everything out in the open for discussion. Richard’s report of that meeting is here: Communications Tower final document.pdf
The possibility of a cell phone company using that tower was also discussed. First of all, no cell phone company has expressed interest. Second, if one did, a more heavy-duty tower would be needed and also a power line cable and internet cable would be needed. The power access would be a huge additional cost. They looked at the site for where the best access to power would be and they determined it would be to the west, to Gowlland Harbour Road. They were not aware this route crossed private property. If a cell phone company becomes interested sometime in the future, the cell company will have to find another site. Hatchery Hill was suggested as being close to power and to the Telus fibre cable.
The new location is further southeast on Heriot Ridge. There is no trail to that location and a tower there would probably not be visible from the trails on Heriot Ridge. There will be no fences or keep-out signs. The tower will have an anti-climbing guard. Their goal is to avoid cutting trees. The nicomm.com web site has photos of some of their installations.
Dave Emery of North Island Communications also reported on this meeting. His letter is printed in the gumboot: http://www.thegumboot.ca/show3044a/A_Letter_from_North_Island_Communications
Where he says there was an inquiry from an unknown cell company, read that as an inquiry from what he thought at the time was a cell company (but was not).
At this time, the original application is still up on the MFLNRO website and is open for your comments.