The Minnesota Court of Appeals has decided to allow AT&T to build a 450-foot wireless tower with 24-hour blinking lights near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, an environmental group, tried to block the tower by filing a complaint that argued the structure would harm scenic views in the federally designated wilderness area. The group has not yet decided whether it will appeal the Court's ruling, said executive director Paul Danicic.
"We'll review the ruling carefully and decide our next legal steps," Danicic said. "Friends remains undeterred, and we're going to continue to work vigorously to protect the scenic vistas of the Boundary Waters."
The Court of Appeals decision, released Monday, reversed an earlier ruling by the Hennepin County District Court. The Court of Appeals found that the tower would not have a "severe adverse effect on scenic and esthetic resources" in the Boundary Waters.
The Court's opinion noted that the tower would be visible from less than 1 percent of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and that "signs of human existence," including a water tower, cabins, and other communication towers, are already visible in parts of the wilderness area.
AT&T plans to begin work on the new tower soon, said company spokesperson Alex Carey. The company argued the tower was needed to expand cell phone coverage for residents, visitors, and public safety officers.
"We believe that the limited impact of the tower is greatly outweighed by the benefits," he said.
The company plans to build the tower near Ely, about 1.5 miles away from the wilderness area.