CGC #1082

by CGC on August 11, 2011

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                      THE CGC COMMUNICATOR

                            CGC #1082

                   Thursday,  August 11, 2011

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                Robert F. Gonsett, W6VR,  Editor
                

    Copyright 2011, Communications General® Corporation (CGC)

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  USDA FOREST SERVICE MEETING: NO DECISION YET ON WHETHER TO
  CLOSE SOME ROADS ATOP MT. WILSON, AND OTHER ITEMS OF INTEREST

  This special edition CGC Communicator newsletter covers yesterday's meeting 
at the USDA Forest Service office in Arcadia, CA.  The main topic, of course, 
is human exposure to RF radiation levels ("RFR") on various roads atop Mt. 
Wilson.
If the levels are excessive, some of the roads could be closed and no 
longer maintained by L.A. County.

  As Communicator readers know, one set of RFR measurements sponsored by L.A. 
County indicates that RF radiation levels on some of the roads near the 
broadcast towers exceed federal RFR standards.  See CGC #1074 and the story 
entitled "Excessive RFR Claimed."  However, a new set of broadcaster-
sponsored measurements, apparently using more sophisticated equipment and 
techniques, indicates that the roads are fully compliant with federal 
standards.

  Following are two invited letters from well respected broadcast engineers 
who attended yesterday's meeting at the Forest Service where the reports 
were discussed.  Special thanks to each of our writers -- Fred Volken and 
Jeremy Howard -- for their time and trouble in compiling their detailed 
reports.
Thanks also to Mike McIntyre, District Ranger of the Los Angeles River 
Ranger District, USDA Forest Service, for arranging and hosting this 
productive meeting.

  If you have comments to add, please send them to Steve Blodgett at the address 
below for posting in Tech Letters.
We will call attention to your letter in the next Communicator.

  Edress for Tech Letters:  sblodgett (at) earthsignals.com

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  FRED VOLKEN'S VIEW OF THE USDA FOREST SERVICE MEETING

  This is a limited summary of the meeting held this morning at the Angeles 
National Forest offices in Arcadia.  The meeting was well attended by 
representatives of a number of broadcasting stations and antenna tower 
owners and the L.A. County Dept. of Public Works.  The two main topics 
were the RF radiation safety issue and an update on fire protection at Mt. 
Wilson.  New Angeles National Forest Supervisor Tom Contreras was introduced, 
and it was worth noting that his extensive background with the Forest Service 
includes a considerable familiarity with electronic sites.

  The discussion about RF radiation safety was conducted by District Ranger 
Mike McIntyre, and was very open and quite civilized.  A supervisor and an 
engineer from Public Works were in attendance, and they briefly explained 
that the concern about RF radiation levels at the mountaintop began several 
years ago when Public Works commissioned an RF radiation study there.
That investigation, along with later studies, indicated that RF radiation 
levels in certain areas were higher than permitted for exposure of the 
general public.  As a result, Public Works has given consideration to ending 
further maintenance work on Mt. Wilson Circle, Video Rd. and Weathervane Dr.

  There is no Forest Service requirement for Public Works to continue maintaining 
roads for which a Special Use Permit was once issued; the permit can be canceled 
by the holder.  If maintenance by the county were to be abandoned, a new permit 
could be issued to another party interested in continuing the work.
However, Public Works does not particularly wish to abandon the maintenance 
responsibility, only to resolve the RF radiation safety issue.

  When Public Works receives the final report of measured RF radiation levels 
from Hatfield  & Dawson, Consulting Engineers, which I believe is expected to 
be at the end of August, their plan is to seek expert outside advice on 
evaluating the Hatfield & Dawson report along with the studies Public Works 
has commissioned.  This might take an additional one or two months.
There was agreement that when the Public Works Dept. reaches a conclusion 
on the subject, there may be another meeting at the Forest Service offices 
to further review the RF radiation safety issue.

  I hope this brief report will be of interest.

  Fred Volken
  [Engineering] Consultant
  fred.volken (at) verizon.net

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  JEREMY HOWARD'S VIEW OF THE USDA FOREST SERVICE MEETING

  First, we have a new liaison with the Forest Service.  Tom Contreras works 
with our local representatives in Washington in order to make sure the concerns 
of the users in the area, especially Mt. Wilson, are addressed.  His e-mail 
address is tcontreras (at) fs.fed.us.


  THE RF EXPOSURE ISSUE

  The first point made by the Forest Service was that they cannot prevent LACDPW 
from relinquishing the permit for the roads in question.  The Special Use Permit 
is granted to the user and the LACDPW has the right to relinquish it at any time.

  The LACDPW engineering representative showed us a map of the roads that are 
proposed to be closed and indicated that Audio Road would become the lanes that 
allow traffic to flow towards the Observatory area and the unaffected northern 
lanes of Mt. Wilson Circle would remain as they are to return traffic to the 
downhill lanes of Red Box Road.

  It was clarified that the RF exposure issue is the only reason that LACDPW 
wants to abandon Video, Weathervane, and the front or southern half of Mt. 
Wilson Circle.  The County is committed to long term care of the other roads 
including Red Box all the way to SR2.

  It was also noted that Todd Smith and the other fine folks who maintain the 
roads will not need to relocate from their current residences at the county 
road yard [atop Mt. Wilson] as RF exposure there seems to be a non-issue.

  LACDPW has also agreed to hold off on further action until such time that the 
full report by Hatfield & Dawson is released at the end of August.  While the 
preliminary findings we have all read look promising, the county will not 
officially change its position until such time that the new report is released, 
and the data is compared to the two previous reports ordered by LACDPW to make 
a final determination.

  Since the existing SUP with the county has no real expiration date, the 
relinquishment would actually be more of an amendment to the existing permit.  
The county also was quite open that the issue is not financially motivated 
as the affected sections constitute a very small portion of the annual costs 
to keep the roads open up there.

  If for some reason the LACDPW still thinks there is a significant hazard, 
we would have the cooperation of the Forest Service if Mt. Wilson users were 
forced to form a group to maintain the affected roads.

  Another item of note was that closing the roads to public use and securing 
them with gates would help to increase the level of security in the post 9/11 
world for those broadcasters served by them.  After the final report is 
released, there will be another stakeholders meeting scheduled to follow up 
on the issue and discuss it in an open forum.  This should occur sometime 
after September 1.


  CLEARING BRUSH (AND OTHER FLAMMABLES) TO PREVENT FOREST FIRES

  Work continues with fuel reductions.  There are some areas where up to 200 
feet of terrain below the broadcast and observatory grounds have been cleaned 
up.  The 300-400 foot clearance goal is hard to meet during fire season and 
crews have been working the large fires in Arizona and New Mexico.  As they 
return, work in these areas will continue.

  The federal funds secured are sufficient enough that all permitted areas 
will be cleaned up for free.  The USFS Fuels Officers will be on hand to 
supervise the clearing work to ensure our operations are not impacted in 
any way.

  These funds also allow the Forest Service to contract out the larger portions 
of the work.  The contracts are in the final stages of being drawn up and the 
reported $164,000 in funds will cover the private contactor costs.

  This work could start as early as this year depending on time tables and when 
winter arrives.  There will be piles of wood left behind as the clearing is 
completed.


  THE MOUNT WILSON FIRE SAFE COUNCIL (MWFSC)

  With the news that the major funding secured by the now disbanded MWFSC could 
not be used for public lands, and the unwillingness by anyone to take over for 
Tony Neece, almost $200,000 in funds were re-distributed to FSCs in the areas 
below Mt. Wilson.  It is imperative that each user is responsible enough to 
clear the areas around their buildings and towers of debris such as boxes, 
pallets, and other flammable materials.

  The recommendations that were to be provided by the MWFSC are no longer 
available.  Both Tom and Mike with USFS implored the attendees to get the 
fire safe council back together even though there is virtually no financial 
incentive to do so.  They suggested that there still could be educational 
and inspection- related programs to be implemented.  There was also a 
suggestion that perhaps another FSC, such as Sierra Madre, which is very 
active, could be linked to Mt. Wilson in order to make the job easier.


  OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE

  The Mount Disappointment 50K run will be using many of the public roads 
and trails on Mount Wilson due to closure of many of the traditional parts 
of the route for fire recovery.

  Road closures this winter will still be implemented.  Roads in the area 
will be closed including Red Box 8 hours before the forecasted arrival of 
a major weather event.  Closures should become less and less as we near 
the 5 year mark after the Station Fire, as is the case in most areas.

  The lower section of the Toll Road is being worked on.  The rock slide 
should be removed well before winter as funding for the project is 
connected with the close of their fiscal year which is October 1.

  All in all, the meeting was very informative and seemed at the very 
least to address the concerns of all of us who were present.

  Thanks as always for your great newsletter!

  Jeremy Howard
  JHoward (at) kcet.org


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