Radio towers raise worries

By Jennifer Langston

Herald Writer

SNOHOMISH — Until Thursday morning, Lydia Krieger didn’t realize how much a proposed radio antenna would change the view from the farm where she has lived for 50 years.

The steel structure would be almost three-quarters as tall as the Space Needle, erected in a rural valley known for its sleepy beauty and its wildlife park.

Everett-based radio station KRKO-AM has asked the county for permission to build up to eight antennas in the upper Snohomish River Valley, increasing its broadcast power tenfold and allowing the entire county and beyond to hear the news-talk radio station.

The largest free-standing antenna, painted orange and white, would be 425 feet tall. The others would be 199 feet.

Citizens opposed to the proposed antenna farm hired a helicopter Thursday morning to hover at the height of the towers to show valley residents how tall the structures would be.

Bob Heirman, a longtime fisherman and historian who worked for decades to establish a wildlife preserve in the area, watched the helicopter hover from an old homestead on Lord Hill.

It was four times higher than the tallest cottonwood trees along the Snohomish River.

He said the radio antennas would destroy the views from the 343-acre Heirman Wildlife Preserve named in his honor. Lord Hill Regional Park is uphill.

"Two of the county’s largest parks are going to be jeopardized by this," Heirman said. "Nobody wants this in their backyard, but of all the places in Snohomish County, I think this is the worst."

Krieger, 88, whose house sits on Craven’s Pumpkin Farm just across the road, said it was alarming to see the helicopter hovering high above her kitchen window.

Her husband Walter, nearly blind and deaf at age 91, gets his only recreation these days from a pair of special headphones that allow him to listen to the television from his wheelchair.

If the radio towers disrupt that electronic equipment, he’ll lose what little pleasure and contact with the outside world he has left, Krieger said.

KRKO said it expects only a handful of radio interference problems in surrounding homes. But those can be fixed with filters and simple technologies, said president and general manager Andy Skotdal.

The station is required by federal communications law to fix problems that surrounding residents may have, Skotdal said. He said all the issues that opponents have raised about air safety, wildlife and radio pollution just mask the real problem they have with the antennas.

"The fact of the matter in this whole debate is very simple," he said. "We want to build a new transmitter site, and they don’t want to look at it."

He doesn’t dispute that the antennas are ugly, but the station has already made concessions based on residents’ concerns. It reduced the height of all but one antenna and removed guy wires that could harm birds.

The wetland property is a good spot for AM radio transmission, and it’s relatively unpopulated compared to the rest of the county, he said.

Snohomish County planning staff decided the project wouldn’t have any significant impacts on the environment — a decision that neighbors and Harvey Air Field have appealed.

The hearing at the end of the month is designed to resolve those appeals, as well as decide whether the station will get a conditional use permit allowing it to build. That’s the project’s biggest outstanding hurdle.

The Federal Aviation Administration has already determined that the towers won’t be a threat to airplanes, skydivers or hot-air balloonists in the region.

But Citizens to Preserve the Upper Snohomish River Valley — a group that coalesced to fight the towers — assembled experts at a community meeting this week that foresee problems with the towers.

George Frese, a Wenatchee radio engineer with 60 years experience, told residents this week that the antenna farm could be expected to cause problems in everything from computer modems to telephones to garage door openers.

Some can be easily fixed with a filter from Radio Shack. Others perplex even the experts and can take thousands of dollars to fix, he said.

"To say they’re insignificant and can be repaired easily can be misleading," Frese said. Anything that’s electric of particularly electronic can be disrupted or interfered with."

Jay Woodward, who owns Balloon Depot in Snohomish, said he’s not worried about hot-air balloonists crashing into the towers, but the antennas would make landings more difficult.

He also thinks the towers will be a blemish on the landscape. His business brochure now shows a lovely, agricultural valley that hasn’t been changed by development.

"If I want to be straight … I’ll have to take another picture with these great big ugly orange and white eyesores. They’re so overbearing and out of place for that setting, it’s just ridiculous to contemplate," he said.

Wildlife biologist and trumpeter swan expert Martha Jordan disagrees with KRKO’s conclusions that the towers won’t interfere with bird migration.

The Heirman Wildlife Preserve, which the county has spent $2 million to acquire and maintain, is a haven for wintering trumpeter swans and migrating tundra swans. Thousands of ducks roost on Shadow Lake at any one time.

A large obstruction in the narrow river valley could cause the birds — particularly swans — to abandon the park as a roosting site, she said.

Skotdal said county planning and federal aviation experts have reviewed a 2-inch-thick, double-sided document submitted by the radio station. It has studied everything from soils to wildlife to radio interference.

He says the project really won’t have many impacts.

"I can certainly understand that people don’t want to look at a project like this … but the county code says we can go there," he said. "We’ve really worked hard to make as many concessions as we can … and we’re willing to work with them."

You can call Herald Writer Jennifer Langston at 425-339-3452

or send e-mail to

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A Cessna 150 crashed north of Paine Field on Friday evening, Feb. 16, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. The pilot survived without serious injury. (Courtesy of Richard Newman.)
‘I’m stuck in the trees’: 911 call recounts plane crash near Paine Field

Asad Ali was coming in for a landing in a Cessna 150 when he crashed into woods south of Mukilteo. Then he called 911 — for 48 minutes.

Snohomish County likely to feel more like winter, beginning Monday

Get ready for a mix of rain and snow this week, along with cooler temperatures.

Anthony Boggess
Arlington man sentenced for killing roommate who offered shelter

Anthony Boggess, 33, reported hearing the voices of “demons” the night he strangled James Thrower, 65.

Mt. Pilchuck covered in snow is barely visible through the clouds as the sun breaks through illuminating raindrops as they fall off of the Mountain Loop Highway on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024 in Granite Falls, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘Active’ weather brings rain, snow, hail, fresh powder to Snohomish County

Up to an inch of snow could accumulate in the lowlands. Three inches of rain could fall in Darrington. And Stevens Pass is “doing quite well.”

Joanne Fisher, right, a meat wrapper with the Marysville Albertsons, hands a leaflet to a shopper during an informational campaign on  Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. Fisher was one of about a dozen grocery store workers handing out leaflets to shoppers about the proposed merger between Albertsons and Kroger. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
US sues to block merger of grocery giants Kroger, Albertsons

Grocery workers in Snohomish County and elsewhere have argued the merger would stymie competition and hurt workers.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee during its meeting on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, where the panel indicated it would not move ahead with legislation to cap residential rent increases at 7%. The move effectively killed the bill for the 2024 legislative session. (Bill Lucia/Washington State Standard)
Plan for 7% statewide cap on rent increases fails in Olympia

State Sen. June Robinson, D-Everett, told reporters the bill did not have enough support to move it forward.

People look out onto Mountain Loop Mine from the second floor hallway of Fairmount Elementary on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Mining company ordered to stop work next to school south of Everett

After operating months without the right paperwork, OMA Construction applied for permits last week. The county found it still violates code.

Shoppers cross Alderwood Mall Parkway after leaving the mall and walking through its parking lot on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lynnwood police seek 3 suspects after pursuit, brief shootout

The driver of a stolen car intentionally hit a teen boy Sunday, officers said. Police pursued the suspects near I-5.

Starbucks employee Zach Gabelein outside of the Mill Creek location where he works on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024 in Mill Creek, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘We cannot keep up’: Mill Creek Starbucks workers file for unionization

The cafe’s crew joins the ranks of the 624 stores nationwide, including two other locations in Snohomish County.

The Nimbus Apartments are pictured on Wednesday, March 1, 2023, in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Snohomish County has the highest rent in the state. Could this bill help?

In one year, rent for the average two-bedroom apartment in Snohomish County went up 20%. A bill seeks to cap any increases at 7%.

The Westwood Rainier is one of the seven ships in the Westwood line. The ships serve ports in the Pacific Northwest and Northeast Asia. (Photo provided by Swire Shipping)
Westwood Shipping Lines, an Everett mainstay, has new name

The four green-hulled Westwood vessels will keep their names, but the ships will display the Swire Shipping flag.

A Snohomish County no trespassing sign hangs on a fence surrounding the Days Inn on Monday, Feb. 12, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Meth cleanup at Edmonds motel-shelter made matters worse, report says

Contamination has persisted at two motels Snohomish County bought to turn into shelters in 2022. In January, the county cut ties with two cleanup agencies.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.