Washington Senate proposes regulating radio towers


The proposed legislation SB5000 was withdrawn by Senator Honeyford as a result of the response from the amateur radio community and professional radio broadcasters.  It is possible that legislation will be reintroduced in the future with an exemption for towers associated with appropriate FCC licensing.

I recently received an email from the Washington Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) on January 17 stating that Senator Jim Honeyford of Yakima had introduced Senate Bill 5000 that would require certain towers in the state to be lit, painted and guys have marker balls installed on the guy wires.

The proposed law was aimed at guyed towers that were more than 50 feet tall, but exempt if they were otherwise regulated.  Not only would the many hams in Washington that have guyed towers be affected, but broadcasters that have guyed towers that are under the 200 foot threshold that exempts antennas from FCC and FAA lighting and painting regulations.

Many of the more 100 AM broadcast facilities in Washington have one or more unlit towers in their transmission facilities.  In fact, broadcast antennas are often designed with towers under 200 feet to avoid the necessary and expensive Federal marking requirements.  It can cost more than $10,000 per tower to light and mark a tower as required in the proposed legislation.

I read the two page bill and, with a little research, determined that it was very similar to a bill enacted in Idaho last year.  You can read the proposed bill online HERE.  The Idaho legislation can be found HERE.

I suspected the wording of the legislation defining the exemption which stated: “the primary purpose of which is to support telecommunications equipment.” was specifically for towers used for commercial and government communications equipment without consideration of AM Broadcast and Amateur Radio facilities.

The purpose of the proposed legislation became clear when I received an explanation of the bill’s origins from Senator Honeyford in which he responded to inquiries from amateur and professional radio interests and announced he was withdrawing and rewriting the bill.

The Senator stated:  “The purpose of this legislation was to provide markings for towers (that are set up in rural areas to test for wind generator potential) are more temporary in nature and that tend to spring up overnight. These towers, while valuable to many in our community, may also be dangerous to crop dusting pilots who fly at very low levels to apply crop protection chemicals and control spray drift. No other pilots are permitted to fly this low.”

“I personally knew two such pilots who have lost their lives. I’m aware of at least one additional fatality in recent years in Eastern Washington, and I felt we needed to help make their work as safe as possible.”

Your invited to share your comments with the Washington Transportation Committee Chair, Representative Judy Clibborn ( Judy.Clibborne@leg.wa.gov ) of the 41st District in King County. You can also contact your State Representative and Senator. ( http://app.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/ )


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