KDVS, the UC Davis student-run radio station is in the process of obtaining a new radio tower, one that would allow it to potentially increase its listener base from 200,000 to 500,000 listeners, with a greater area of influence spanning Woodland, all of Yolo County, as well as Sacramento.
As KDVS looks forward to this, some members of the Davis community are opposed to the implementation of the 365-foot tower, with worries over its implications for the environment as well as for agricultural tourism and for those who will be living near the tower.
Results Radio, a private broadcasting company currently located in Santa Rosa, is building the tower and will be leasing it to KDVS. The tower will be located 150 feet south of the Yolo County Landfill. The plans for this tower have been in the works for over a year, and was originally approved by the Yolo County Board of Supervisors on Sept. 14, 2010. Due to complications with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Results Radio was not able to build the tower in the allotted time and requested a one-year extension which was approved on Sept. 19, 2011.
Eileen Samitz, a member of the Davis Coalition for Good Planning, appealed the approval of this one-year extension during a meeting with the Yolo County Planning Commission on Oct. 27, 2011.
“The bottom line here is that an out-of-town broadcasting conglomerate wants to put their environmentally degradative 365-foot radio tower, which would have three white glaring strobes, in Yolo County, yet they want to bring their business and their jobs to Sacramento … Most people don’t understand how devastating and how bad the impacts will be from this tower,” Samitz said.
The tower would be situated in the Pacific Flyway, a route by which migratory birds travel every year, which is worrisome to Samitz.
“We would basically invite birds from all over the world to use the Pacific Flyway, and this radio tower would be putting them directly in harm’s way,” she said.
In addition to the sheer size of the tower, worries also exist over the tower’s strobes, which would blink 40 times a minute at 20,000 candelas each.
“KDVS values sustainability and if we thought that the tower would pose significant environmental concerns, we wouldn’t support its construction,” said Neil Ruud, general manager of KDVS and senior political science major. “There are several radio towers already in the North Davis area and this tower’s approval is not unprecedented. The tower’s impact on the environment will be negligible and I’m sure local and federal officials, who have already approved this tower, will continue to support its construction.”
The Davis Coalition for Good Planning is not the only organization in protest to the new tower. The Audubon Society, Tuleyome and the Sierra Club Yolano Group have also been fighting against the new tower and are all planning to submit another appeal to both the Yolo County Board of Supervisors as well as with the FCC.
“It is imperative that KDVS gets this tower,” Ruud said. “We’re disadvantaged as a small non-profit when it comes to protecting our frequency. We’re facing decreased coverage as other stations on 90.3 FM from outside Yolo County are seeking to expand their signals.”
The station has been trying to get a new tower for over 15 years.
Samitz and the Davis Coalition for Good Planing said that the negative aspects of this tower greatly surpass any benefits it may create for KDVS or any other radio station.
“I’m a supporter of KDVS,” Samitz said. “But every time that tower goes off, 40 times a minute, people are going to say ‘KDVS is responsible for this too.’ And for what reason? There’s no comparison for the costs and the impacts of what they’re going to cause on the environment and on the community.”
“I’m an environmentalist myself and I’m sympathetic with any kind of argument on behalf of birds, the environment, the natural world, etc,” said Andy Jones, host of the KDVS show ‘Dr. Andy’s Poetry and Technology Hour’ for the past 11 years, said. “That said, I’d say that the cultural benefits of the KDVS tower would dramatically outweigh any drawbacks. Primarily because I would defer to the scientific judgement of the independent studies that have been done that show the possibility of bird strikes would be minimal, and that the site of the tower was chosen to affect as few people as possible.”
Members of the community have the next two weeks to make their appeals, after which Results Radio will be able to continue in their plans.
“This tower will provide Yolo County with an even greater ability to broadcast its rich culture and support its hardworking small businesses,” Ruud said.
“Non-commercial educational broadcasters like KDVS face an uphill battle in a lot of these situations and this tower will provide local individuals and organizations with a megaphone they won’t find anywhere else. KDVS is student and community run, you just don’t find many radio stations like that anymore.”
SIERRA HORTON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.