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Feds gets vocal on towers

Industry Minister James Moore says he's articulated residents' concerns to U.S. officials

The federal government is finally showing concern about the contentious proposal to install radio transmission towers in Point Roberts, but recent statements could be too little, too late.

In a recent letter to Mayor Lois Jackson, Industry Minister James Moore noted he met with members of the Cross Border Coalition to Stop the Radio Towers in August and understands their concerns, which have also been conveyed by Delta-Richmond East MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay.

"To be clear, Industry Canada has articulated the concerns raised by Tsawwassen residents, particularly as they relate to blanketing interference, to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officials ensuring that nearby homes are not subject to unwanted disruptions," Moore stated.

The Consulate General of Canada in Seattle has also "raised Canada's frustrations" with Washington state officials, noted Moore, who added he has personally spoken to Bruce Heyman, ambassador for the United Sates to Canada in Ottawa, to raise "Canada's concern and our expectations that cross-border Canadian residents are included in the county and FCC decision making."

The letter by Moore, who has also asked the ambassador to visit the area, is the strongest position taken in public yet regarding the contentious radio towers proposal. Moore and Findlay had been criticized by opponents of the proposal for not speaking out on the issue or taking it up with the FCC in the U.S. The mayor and council recently wrote to Moore reiterating Delta's concerns, mentioning a recent citizens' petition to the House of Commons and asking for the government to intervene.

Delta has also asked that an Industry Canada representative speak at an upcoming public hearing in Whatcom County, but there's no indication the federal government will to go that far.

BBC Broadcasting Inc. wants to construct five 45-metre (150-foot) steel towers at an undeveloped lot on McKenzie Way, about 330 metres from the Tsawwassen border.

The towers would transmit South Asian radio station KRPI, AM 1550, which currently broadcasts from studios in Richmond to a Lower Mainland audience.

The broadcaster currently uses antenna in Ferndale, Wash., but wants to move them closer and have a stronger 50,000-watt, allday signal. The FCC granted approval but a permit is still required by the county, which is recommending rezoning approval.

In a presentation to council this summer, Findlay recommended residents focus their efforts at the county level, noting the FCC indicated it was aware of Tsawwassen and took the community into consideration when reviewing the application.

The county public hearing is set to begin Oct. 27 and is scheduled for several days.

While it appears the hearing could be the last stand for opponents, it's not clear if the station's troubles with the CRTC in this country could change things. The Canadian broadcasting authority ordered the station and two other Lower Mainland South Asian broadcasters to a show cause hearing set for next Wednesday in Quebec on their practice of broadcasting from the U.S. into Canada.

The station could be ordered "to cease and desist operating a broadcasting undertaking at Richmond, British Columbia, or elsewhere in Canada, except in compliance with the Broadcast Act."

In a lengthy letter two weeks ago to the CRTC, station COO Jasbir Singh Badh offered some solutions.

Several opponents of the Point Roberts application have filed as interveners in the CRTC proceeding.