Coast Guard tower still without a home |

Coast Guard tower still without a home

Kyle Magin / Sierra Sun

No decisions have been made on whether to place a U.S. Coast Guard communications tower in Tahoma, as the military branch is now looking at other sites in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

While the Tahoma site, which is on California Tahoe Conservancy land, hasn’t been ruled out, other West Shore sites are being considered, said Coast Guard Commander Sid Osgood.

“We’re trying to do site surveys wisely, because they do cost a great deal,” Osgood said. “But there are about three areas we’re assessing in the West Shore area besides the Tahoma position.”

The proposed tower is part of the Coast Guard’s Rescue 21 initiative, aimed at updating marine communications on Lake Tahoe, which Osgood said are now well behind standard. He said there are gaps in communication now on the lake where marine radios cannot be heard.

“It’s a quantum leap forward in technology,” Osgood said.

Part of the reason the Coast Guard is looking elsewhere is because of community backlash over placing the tower on Conservancy land and near people’s homes.

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“I’m not sure it’s the right thing for Lake Tahoe,” said Pam Washburne, a part-time Tahoma resident. “Not everyone has marine radios. Some people do distress calls on their cell phones. How is the new tower going to address that?”

Washburne also pointed out that the Coast Guard has a limited number of responders ” two ” and need to work with other fire and sheriff’s agencies to respond to calls. Washburne said she’d like to know how the tower will help the USCG coordinate rescues with other services.

Osgood said for those boaters with marine radios, the tower can accurately pinpoint their position on the 22-mile long, 12-mile lake and allow any responders to more quickly locate distressed mariners.

Bruce Eisner, a program manager for the CTC, said his organization will not support the tower plan until the Coast Guard produces the results of its alternate site search.

Osgood said the search for another place to locate the 150-foot, 50-watt radio tower should be completed sometime next month.

Tahoma residents have also expressed concerns about the effects of radio waves on resident’s health, something Osgood said he thinks isn’t a valid argument since the tower would have to comply with Federal Communications Commission standards.