AT&T has completed construction of a controversial new, 450-foot tall communications tower near the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area.
AT&T moved ahead with the project near Ely after the Minnesota Supreme Court decided last August not to hear an environmental group's challenge to the wireless tower.
Engineers are equipping the tower, which will be operational sometime this summer, AT&T spokesman Alex Carey said. It replaces a shorter 199-foot tower and increases the availability and reliability of mobile phone service within the BWCA. Visitors will be able to report accidents and summon medical help.
"I think all of that means that the tower will improve the health and safety for area residents, tourists and businesses," Carey said.
The Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness had argued the tower's flashing lights would harm scenic views in a federally designated wilderness. A lower court agreed, but the Minnesota Court of Appeals overturned that decision last summer.
The group's executive director, Paul Danicic, said they are extremely disappointed in AT&T.
"They refused to do the right thing here," Danicic said. "They could have met their business objectives while preserving one of Minnesota's crown jewels."
Danicic argues AT&T could have reached almost the same area with a smaller tower. AT&T says the increased reach is vital for public safety.