In a decision further highlighting the importance of thoroughly reviewing environmental effects when planning new communications towers, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has ordered a tower company to reassess the impact a new communications tower in Chattanooga, Tennessee, has on historic properties. The FCC ordered Wireless Properties LLC to submit a new FCC Form 620 submission packet to the Tennessee Historical Commission, due to the company’s failure include in its initial submission packet a study of the tower’s impact on the Bragg Reservation, a site listed on the National Register of Historic Places that has a boundary within 1,000 feet of the tower site.
The FCC’s Nationwide Programmatic Agreement (NPA) on historic preservation provides a 30-day time limit within which a State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) may object to a tower proposal. However, the FCC found in this case that it was appropriate to reopen the record at the SHPO’s request nearly a year later because the applicant’s inadvertent omission of this site caused its submission packet to be incomplete and therefore invalid under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. This decision confirms the FCC’s position that environmental reviews under the NPA must be thorough and complete, and that it is insufficient for a tower proponent to do only a rudimentary search for historic properties or to rely on the SHPO to identify any other historic properties that should be protected.