Radio station proposes new antenna location

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By Roger Snodgrass

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice asking for public comment on a proposed KRSN radio antenna on North Mesa, north of the Middle School.


According to an e-mail sent out to local pilots by Los Alamos Airport Manager David Ploeger, KRSN has filed a request with the FAA for a second study to see if a tower would cause any interference with the airport or air traffic.


“The FAA put out a public notice about it,” Ploeger said this morning. “They encourage airport managers to post it for the public to read. If they want to make a comment they can.”


The reason for the notice is that the proposed structure would exceed obstruction standards and has triggered an aeronautical study to determine the effect on airport space and flight functions.


The posted notice answers at least a few of the implied questions, noting that a preliminary study did not identify any effect the structure would have on either instrument flight rule factors or visual flight rule operations or procedures.


An earlier proposal was for a tower 190 feet tall.


Ploeger’s note said the FAA made a determination that the previous antenna proposal was presumed to be a hazard to air navigation at that height.


The new request is for a 170-foot tower, which would make it the same elevation as a water tower at the middle school.


Ploeger said he had not yet arrived at a public position on the subject, but noted that, although it exceeds the obstruction limits, the fact that it is the same height as the water tower “may be some mitigation.”


“That’s the saving grace,” said KRSN co-owner David Sutton this morning, referring to the height. “It’s also west of the water tower, which is better. The previous one was not.”


Sutton described the current location as the third one the station has tried. One was next to the Posse Lodge and the other was across the street from the Hawk’s Landing development on a vacant lot between the middle school and the baseball fields.


He said the antenna is needed to get into compliance with the FCC because the current antenna is in White Rock and, especially at night, the current antenna doesn’t cover the “City of License,” which is Los Alamos.


“We’re running on a temporary authority that has to be renewed every six months,” he said, adding that the renewal process is an expensive process.


Referring to a construction bid on his desk, he said the antenna would cost $25,000, not counting labor.


It’s a big investment,” he said. “If we want to continue a Los Alamos radio station that has been here since 1948, we’ve got to do this.”


He said he has been in touch with county officials about the new effort, but that there was no point starting the planning and zoning process up again without the FAA clearance.


A proposal to put an antenna on the water tower was approved by Planning and Zoning a couple of years ago.


Sutton said, but he had to discard that location because there was some risk, “that electrolysis could happen, causing the paint to peel off.”


He said, “There was no way to have that happen and then be responsible to repaint it.”


Sutton said he and his wife Gillian have no plans to sell the station and their motivation is solely to provide a strong signal.


“In some locations after dark you can’t pick up the radio station,” he said.