The environmental analysis and review process for a proposed microwave radio antenna tower in the St. Mary area of Glacier National Park has been completed and a decision to upgrade the existing infrastructure has been made. National Park Service Intermountain Regional Director John Wessels signed the decision on January 22, 2013. The environmental impacts associated with the project and consideration of public comments were part of the analysis process.
The replacement tower will not be a cell tower, nor will it provide cell service; there are no cell towers in Glacier National Park. The tower will upgrade existing infrastructure and provide digital subscriber line (DSL) broadband Internet service to the greater St. Mary area as part of a larger statewide Montana Public Service Commission requirement mandating CenturyLink to upgrade communications capabilities at its rural exchanges. The tower will also support National Park Service radio communications equipment.
Currently, the greater St. Mary area is limited to cellular modem and satellite technologies for Internet services, and does not include the faster and larger capacity DSL Internet service for residential, visitor, and government use. CenturyLink's Internet service in the greater St. Mary area is therefore not meeting the demands of local users.
CenturyLink's tower must be located within the park because the new system will need to be hardwired to the existing CenturyLink equipment building, which has been in the St. Mary developed area since 1955. Due to concerns raised by park management about additional communications infrastructure within the park, and to avoid placing an additional tower in the Divide Creek floodplain, the new tower will replace the existing National Park Service radio tower. The existing 70-foot tall tower will be removed and National Park Service radio equipment will be co-located with CenturyLink's equipment on the replacement tower.
A right-of-way permit will be issued to CenturyLink to build and operate the tower. It will be an approximately 80-foot tall, three-legged, steel lattice structure with a 6-foot diameter microwave dish. The tower will be supported by an approximately16-foot by 16-foot concrete footing. Construction will take approximately three weeks.
The decision document is available on the agency's planning website.
Hiking in Glacier National Park