A private company wants to construct a wireless communication site near Keen Camp Summit on nearby U.S. Forest Service land. The Forest Service is soliciting comments on the project.

The project will improve wireless communication, including 911 services, between Mountain Center and Garner Valley. Verizon and AT&T have already agreed to use the space and there will be room for one more user, according to the report.

“Current cell phone coverage in the area along the stretch of Highway 74 between Mountain Center and Garner Valley is unreliable and has a ‘dead zone,’” the Forest Service scoping packet reads.

The site is between Mountain Center and the entrance to Hurkey Creek Park, 400 feet off of Forest Service Road 5S05 that connects with Highway 74. Renegade Towers LLC, which has submitted the application to construct and operate this “gap-filler” cellular and wireless facility, did explore alternative sites, including private lands, before submitting its request for a permit to the Forest Service.

The project will include a transmission pole, similar in size to electric and telephone utility poles, and an equipment shed about 11-by-29 feet or about 320 square feet.

To persons driving north on Highway 74, the tower will be visible, but so are a line of utility poles and wires along the Keen Summit ridge. It will appear no different.

Robert MacLachlan of Vista Towers said in an email that the site will open with 4G capability. In the future, when 5G is more pervasive and affordable on the Hill, the site’s capability may switch. 

However, he explained that the switch from 4G to 5G for many tower facilities is minor. Neither the bandwidth nor power will change or be augmented. The software and protocols change. “Keen Camp Summit is in this category,” he wrote.

The project is “categorically excluded from analysis in either an environmental impact statement or and environmental assessment,” the Forest Service stated.

Nevertheless, the Forest Service is seeking comments and asking that these comments focus on issues such as mitigation measures, critical habitat, wetlands and watersheds, natural areas, or cultural or archeological sites that might preclude the exclusion.

Project documents are available at www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=53568. Paper copies are available upon request by contacting Heidi Hoggan, project lead, at heidi.hoggan@usda.gov or 909-382-2945. 

The responsible official is Forest Supervisor Jody Noiron, but the San Jacinto Ranger District is conducting the NEPA process. 

Written, facsimile, hand-delivered and electronic comments concerning this action will be accepted. However, email is the preferred means for receiving scoping comments, which can be submitted in email text or readable format: .doc, .pdf, .txt or .rtf. 

The Forest Service requests comments be sent to: heidi.hoggan@usda.gov, with “Scoping – Keen Camp Summit Comm Site” in the subject line. 

If you are unable to email comments, you can mail them to U.S. Forest Service, Attn: Heidi Hoggan, P.O. Box 518, Idyllwild, CA 92549 or by fax at 951-659-2107.

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