"This is bananas. The lack of cell access in this part of the state is a public safety risk and we should be doing everything to promote telecom availability there."

That's what Public Service Commissioner Travis Kavulla (R-Great Falls) had to say about this story involving a $1.8 million shake down of a rural Montana telephone cooperative hoping to build a cell tower in Northeastern Montana.

Here's the full tweet with a link to the story posted by The Havre Herald:


Here's an excerpt from the Havre Herald report:

The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, DNRC, says it will assess Triangle up to $1.8 million in mitigation fees to offset  damage to sage grouse breeding grounds. Triangle usually spends about $425,000 to build cell phone towers. The additional $1.8 million cost would doom this project, Triangle officials said, leaving the area without service.

Although leks are very sensitive to development, there is no hint that a single tower that far away would have an impact, said Tim Nixdorf, Triangle’s director of wireless operations. The area is basically a salvage yard, he said. The tower will be less than 200 feet tall, so it will not have to be lit, and Triangle will install deterrents so that it will not be a danger to any form of bird life.

For those who've been tuning in to the Montana Talks statewide radio show with Aaron Flint, we've been covering this story since it first came to light back in July. Gary Wiens with the Montana Electric Cooperatives Association talked about the concerns this would create for other industries also operating in rural Montana.