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Environmental group sues to stop AT&T cell tower near BWCAW

The Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness filed a lawsuit Tuesday against AT&T Mobility to stop the construction of a telecommunications tower.

The group claims the tower would significantly impair the natural and scenic beauty of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the surrounding area.

AT&T has proposed to build a low frequency 450 MHz tower on an elevated ridge within two miles of the Boundary Waters that will loom about 600 feet above the surrounding wilderness landscape. The tower will be illuminated with strobe and beacon lighting, and will be visible for miles inside the wilderness area on several popular lakes, including Basswood, Fall, Ella Hall and South Farm lakes, according to a news release from the environmental group.

"The scenic beauty of the Boundary Waters, a 1.1-million-acre, federally protected wilderness area, must be preserved now so the wilderness continues to be a natural, pristine and unspoiled environment for generations to come," said Paul Danicic, Friends executive director.

The Friends has repeatedly expressed its concerns about the proposed tower to AT&T and to the Lake County zoning authority. The Friends said in its release that it sought to discuss the need for an environmental assessment of the tower's effect on the Boundary Waters with AT&T, and to consider less environmentally damaging alternatives that would provide area residents with improved cell phone service.

AT&T could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuit was filed in Hennepin County District Court, alleging a violation of the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act.