BRYCE, Garfield County — National Park Service officials are asking for public comment as they consider a proposed cell tower and other utilities in the Bryce Amphitheater area of Bryce Canyon National Park.
According to park officials, Verizon Wireless, South Central Utah Telephone Association and Garkane Energy Cooperative filed for right-of-way permits, which are permits issued by the National Park Service to utility companies building on, over or under park land. The permits requested are for a tower, fiber optic utility and electric utility.
The exact proposal up for comment includes a 60-foot lattice design tower at Science Hill, which is near Inspiration Point, park officials said in a statement Monday. Verizon submitted an application in 2015 to install a cell tower in the park near existing National Public Warning System radio towers in the Science Hill area of the park, according to a National Park Service report about the project.
Verizon argued the tower will help improve telecommunication for park staff and visitors, especially if there is an emergency, the report noted.
“Peak visitation at (Bryce Canyon) occurs from March through November and represents the time period when most emergency calls are placed and search and rescue (SAR) operations are needed,” the report notes. “On average, there are typically 20 to 25 emergency calls from the developed area of (Bryce Canyon) daily during peak season.”
The final design came after an environmental assessment study looked at 40-, 60- and 80-foot mono pine and lattice designs that could have been placed at either Science Hill or Manzanita Dorm at the park, park officials said.
The location selected didn't have any known sacred Native American sites and because the tower will not have lights, it won’t affect the park’s Dark Sky initiatives, the report stated. Bryce Canyon was added to the International Dark Sky Park list in August.
As for wildlife, the environmental assessment study also notes that the tower “may result in direct or indirect bird mortality through collisions with the tower or direct mortality during vegetation removal or tower maintenance.” It added that it would follow U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommendations for best practices and minimize the impact on migratory birds.
Anyone can leave a comment on the project at the park’s website, where the full 57-page environmental assessment report can also be found.
Comments can also be mailed to Superintendent Bryce Canyon Park, P.O. Box 640201 Bryce, Utah 84764. Park officials also noted that public comments will be made publicly available at any time, meaning a person’s address, phone number, email address or other information would be on the public record.
The 30-day public comment period will run until 11:59 p.m. Mountain Standard Time on Nov. 25.