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AT&T cellphone tower near Voyageurs park rejected

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Black Bay on Rainy Lake
There are thousands of islands to explore in Voyageurs National Park. This aerial view shows Black Bay on Rainy Lake.
Photo courtesy of Voyageurs National Park

A county board has rejected AT&T's request to build a 350-foot cell phone tower near Voyageurs National Park. 

The Koochiching County Board voted to deny the permit on Tuesday. It also denied AT&T's request for a 60-day extension to continue reviewing the matter. The company wanted to build the tower about 3 miles south of the park boundary near International Falls. 

AT&T spokesman Tom Hopkins said the tower was needed to provide better coverage. 

  "We want people to have high-quality phone service, and in order to deliver that, we need towers," he said. "We're very sensitive where we place them, but at the end of the day, it's what the residents want and need, and that's really what we're trying to fulfill."  

County administrator Teresa Jaksa said AT&T could decide to start the process over again with a new proposal. Bob Bass, the president of AT&T Minnesota, said the company will "regather and assess what we're going to do" in response to the board decision.

The decision marks the second clash this month over AT&T's efforts to erect a cell tower on the edge of a major natural area in northern Minnesota. 

AT&T also wants to build a 450-foot tower near Ely that would be visible in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness sued to block the plan, and a court ruling is pending. AT&T declined to comment on the lawsuit.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)