Appeals panel weighs proposed cell tower near BWCAW

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Court of Appeals is considering whether to allow a proposed 450-foot cell phone tower that would be visible from inside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

AT&T wants to build the tower east of Ely just outside the BWCAW. The Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness sued to stop the project, saying the flashing lights would mar the night skies and scenic vistas. A judge ruled in their favor last summer, saying a shorter, unlit tower would work nearly as well. AT&T appealed, and an appeals panel heard arguments Wednesday.

The appeals judges are weighing a basic question: does Minnesota law protect scenic vistas on public land even if the intruding structure is on nearby private land? They are expected to rule within 90 days.