Tower Groups and Conservation Groups Reach MOU on Towers and Birds

May 18, 2010

Washington - May 17, 2010 - According to the NAB Radio TechCheck from May 17, 2010, the NAB and six other organizations submitted to the FCC a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that contained recommendations designed to help the FCC protect migratory birds as part of its Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) process. The MOU was filed on May 3, 2010. The following details are taken from that issue of the Radio TechCheck.

Two years ago, the federal appeals court in Washington, DC, ordered the FCC to change its ASR program and to give public notice prior to granting tower applications. The FCC requested the NAB, CTIA, PCIA and the National Association of Tower Erectors and the conservation groups (the American Bird Conservancy, the Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society) to begin negotiations to develop interim standards that would be used for the ASR program.

The conservation groups asked the FCC to institute aggressive policies and procedures, including Environment Assessments (EA) for all towers. This would have slowed ASR grants from being granted overnight to requiring more than a year. The NAB notes that many of the conservation suggestions would have impeded the approval of taller towers.

The agreement covers towers for which an ASR is required to be filed. Depending upon the height of the proposed tower or the specifications of a replacement tower, some would require an EA to be performed to assess the tower's effect on migratory birds and would be placed on public notice (per court order). Other towers (such as shorter towers, replacement towers, repaired towers) could be exempt from the process. A key point of the MOU is the creation of three ASR categories:

  • Category #1 - New towers taller than 450' above ground level (AGL).
    - ASRs always require inclusion of an EA upon filing.
    - ASRs will always be placed on Public Notice by the FCC.
  • Category #2 - New towers with heights of 351 to 450' AGL.
    - ASRs do not initially require an EA based on avian concerns.
    - ASRs will always be placed on Public Notice by the FCC.
    - The FCC will determine whether an EA is necessary for Category #2 ASRs after reviewing the ASR application and any filings made in response to the public notice.
  • Category #3 - New towers no taller than 350' AGL, replacement towers and minor ASRs.
    - ASRs do not require an EA upon filing based on avian concerns.
    - The parties could not agree on whether public notice is required for Category #3 ASRs.

    In addition, the MOU calls on the FCC to adopt and utilize a preferred lighting scheme for changes to existing towers that might minimize potential adverse consequences. The Conservation Groups rank FAA lighting styles in the following order, with the most preferred lighting system listed first and the least preferred light system listed last:
    FAA Style B (L-856)
    FAA Style D (L-865)
    FAA Style E (L864/L-865/L-810s)
    FAA Style C (L-856/L-865)
    FAA Style F (white strobe day/red beacon night and L-810s)
    FAA Style A (L-864/L-810)

    Details of these lighting systems are available online: FAA, U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Advisory Circular: Obstruction Marking and Lighting, AC 70/7460-1K.

    Read the MOU at the NAB website.

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