July 12, 2006
This evening, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the gym at the Montauk Public School, officials from the United States Coast Guard will host a public hearing on the planned construction of a 300-foot tall tower. The communications edifice will be erected near the transfer station in Montauk.
An informational event held last winter drew few attendees. At the time, Tom Tansey, the Coast Guard's environmental project manager, explained the tower is part of a nationwide system know as "Rescue 21." The goal of Rescue 21 is to provide seamless coverage for rescuers looking for threatened vessels. It allows them to pinpoint boats up to 20 miles out to sea.
The Guard's existing communication system is old and outdated, to the point where the government can't find replacement parts. Once erected, the Montauk tower will operate in conjunction with towers spread along the East Coast, using digital technology to overlap a proposed Hampton Bays tower.
When the idea of placing the tower first surfaced, town officials expressed concern about its soaring height, twice that of the tower already on site. The proposed communications hub is actually shorter than those found elsewhere, they learned. The landfill's high elevation allowed designers to shave almost 100 feet off the height.
More recently, local officials wondered whether the coasties might use a tower out at Camp Hero instead. In the last several weeks, it's been fitted out with new wireless equipment for private communications providers. But no, that site is too low to accommodate the rescue equipment.
The safety aspect of the project supercedes any potential complaints about whether the huge tower would have a negative effect on the view. Still, by law, the feds are required to hold a hearing on its environmental assessment of the project.
Beyond the hearing tonight, the draft environmental assessment for the tower is available for review at the Montauk Public Library through July 28. You could also look it up on the Rescue 21 segment of the Coast Guard's website. After tonight, Tansey will accept written public comment on the project until July 28 as well. The website will show how to contact him.