Plans to erect a 100-foot cell tower near Leilani Estates on Pahoa-Kalapana Road in Hawaii have been approved by the Windward Planning Commission. But it will require dealing with mating birds, and birthing bats. AT&T filed the application last year and has said the tower will use low-band 5G frequencies. The intent is to deliver a higher quality of service while placing minimum stress on the environment, reports the Hawaii Tribune Herald.
This consideration is important to residents like Jose Romero who said, “You may not see it right now, you might not see it in two, three years, but when you look down the road, this magnetic field you’re going to create is going to mess up the migrations of the birds, it’s going to kill off the bees.” Reputable sources continue to posit that cell towers do not emit lethal radiation, counter to the popular misconception of their dangers.
AT&T’s Andrew Tomlinson said that the telecom was sensitive to the welfare of the native species. Construction plans take into account the Hawaiian hoary bat’s birthing and rearing season. Nest survey research will be conducted during the Hawaiian hawk breeding season. Additionally, AT&T has mandated that all construction work must stop whenever nene, the official state bird of Hawaii, approach the scene.
The proposed Leilani Estates tower is not far from residential Kamaili Homesteads and the Black Sand Beach Subdivision, and some locals have expressed health concerns for the human occupants as well as the native wildlife. Cell tower opponent Leila Kealoha stated that she believes the tower will be too close to her house. Resident Crystal Schiszler shared her belief that excessive radiation could harm nearby animals and ohia trees, according to the Hawaii Tribune Herald.
Though not far from both residential and wildlife areas, the actual tower site selected is located within a 441 acre property that contains a quarry and parts of the Puna Forest Reserve. This particular section is currently unoccupied after a 1955 eruption at Kilauea that resulted in a substantial lava flow through the Leilani Estates area. AT&T has said a coverage gap would be addressed by siting a new cell tower there.
Commissioner Joseph Clarkson asked that the original plan be amended to have AT&T construct the tower with room for a second future occupant. AT&T agreed to the suggestion, making it less likely that additional towers would need to be constructed any time soon.