Cell tower planned to help monitor volcanic activity at Crater Lake

CRATER LAKE — Oregon's only national park may soon have a wireless cell tower that will help keep tabs on the potentially active volcano.

The U.S. Geological Survey wants to build a 60-foot tall tower to allow the agency to transmit information from sensitive instruments watching over the sleeping geological giant that blew its top some 7,700 years ago.

The tower would not be visible from the rim of the caldera or the historic Crater Lake Lodge, according to Benjamin Pauk, spokesman for the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory based in Vancouver, Wash. The facility studies volcanoes in the Cascade range from Lassen Peak in northern California to Canada.

The proposal calls for the new tower to be built about 50 feet west of the non-historic Xanterra employee bunkhouse on the south side of the lake, he said. The tower would be painted brown to blend in with surrounding trees.

In a draft environmental assessment of the proposal released Thursday, the agency noted the tower would support a 3-foot diameter enclosed fiberglass antenna that would transmit the monitoring data out of the park.

The current data communication infrastructure in the park can't support the transmission of the volcanic monitoring data to the observatory, Pauk said.

The new tower would enable the observatory's scientists to remotely monitor, analyze and interpret all seismic activity within the park on a 24-hour basis, he explained.

The public has until Aug. 28 to comment on the proposal.

The environmental assessment is available at www.nps.gov/crla/parkmgmt/planning.htm as well as at the Medford library. Comments can also be posted at the planning, environment and public comment web site at http://parkplanning.nps.gov.

In addition, written comments can be sent to Benjamin Pauk, U.S. Geological Survey, Cascades Volcano Observatory, 1300 SE Cardinal Court, Suite 100, Vancouver, WA 98683.

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