The permits, the arguments, the appeals, and the “Mono pine” discussion that divided Crowley Lake the last time a cell tower was proposed are long gone, and Crowley Lake should get cell service early next month.
The power to the site was turned on this week. Residents now have to wait for Verizon, the service provider, to finish some last minute equipment testing, said Robert MacLachlan, project manager for Vista Towers, the private developer and builder for the tower.
“My understanding is that Verizon is aiming for Dec. 10,” he said.
It’s welcome news for the Crowley Lake area. The community has been trying to get service for the past few years in order to erase the dead zone that hits drivers and residents south of Convict Creek, and extends to Crowley and Aspen Springs.
Aspen Springs, a tiny community between Crowley Lake and Toms Place, lies in a topographical problem area, MacLachlan said—impossible to connect without further investment by cell service providers. The rest of the area, however, should get service.
The cell tower process has been a tough one for Crowley, with residents divided for years over where to put the tower, and with other legal and technical difficulties.
But recently, when Vista Towers proposed putting a tower north of the community near the sewage treatment ponds—and far away from homes and backyards—the idea finally took hold.
The 60-foot tower, almost invisible from U.S. 395 and from most roads to and from the community, is the result.
Vista Towers is working to provide rural, low-population, underserved areas with multi-carrier facilities that allow multiple carriers to use the same tower to reduce impacts, MacLachlan said.
To that end, Vista Towers is also now completing a tower in the Bridgeport area. That tower, too, should be operational by Dec. 10.
“They have some service there, but it’s very spotty and it’s only within a small boundary,” MacLachlan said. “This tower will allow a carrier to provide service to the entire valley floor, even up to the Bridgeport Reservoir area and the highway.
“We specialize in rural corridors and U.S. 395 is one of them,” he said. “When we are done, we intend to fill in almost all of the cell gaps from Bishop to Gardnerville.”
He said another tower is coming for the Sonora Junction area next year, if at all possible. Three others, one near Sherwin Summit, one near Topaz Lake and another near Crestview, are already installed.
There are some exceptions to covering the entire corridor, however. Walker Canyon—and Aspen Springs—present problems no company is likely to take on due to the high expense and low return of providing service.
“Because of the cost of the type of site needed to cover Walker Canyon, it is unlikely a carrier will budget the money to provide a service that will only fill in a five-minute gap in service,” MacLachlan said.
“I don’t think most rural areas realize how much urban areas subsidize the cost of the facilities in rural areas. But we also understand the conflict between the need for coverage and the visual impacts on these beautiful rural areas. All we can do is try our best to find the best possible location to provide the desired coverage with the design that will result in the least impact.”
He said there has been some preliminary discussions with AT&T about adding its equipment to the Bridgeport and Crowley towers, but “it looks like late 2013 or 2014 before they will be operating at either facility.”