Neighbors, agencies question antennas in Ninilchik

Posted: Wednesday, July 31, 2002

KENAI (AP) -- High-frequency radio antennas under construction near Ninilchik have neighbors concerned that the transmissions could be hazardous.

The antennas also have caught the attention of two government agencies. The U.S. Corps of Engineers has handed developers a cease and desist order because of possible wetlands violations and the Environmental Protection Agency is investigating the project.

The antennas are designed to broadcast religious programming to Russia and the Far East.

According to the project's construction permit application, the company building the complex is addressing the wetlands concerns. Company officials also say there would be no danger to the public or to wildlife.

The broadcasting complex is being built by Aurora Communications International Inc., a California-based nonprofit corporation that produces and disseminates Christian educational programming and radio broadcasting.

According to corporate president Alexander Kozned, the nonprofit is supported by donations and the project is being built by volunteers.

Kozned said the station's transmission power is not unusually high or the towers unusually tall.

''This is not going to be Voice of America,'' he said. ''They broadcast at 500 kilowatts. They have antennas that are whoppers compared to ours.''

Initially, transmission will be at 100 kilowatts, about the power at which a similar station near Anchor Point currently broadcasts. Eventually, he said, the power could be boosted to 250 kilowatts.

Kozned's Ninilchik-area neighbors, Paul and Sue Dionne, say they have concerns about the engineering and power of the transmitters.

In late June, they filed an ''informal complaint'' with the FCC over several issues and are seeking to postpone Aurora's permit.

Paul Dionne said Aurora did not properly notify the public regarding its FCC application. Dionne also expressed concern that the station is being built near state critical habitat areas and on the edge of Cook Inlet.

According to Phil North of the Environmental Protection Agency's Kenai office, work last year proceeded without a wetlands permit from Corps. EPA required Aurora to remove excess fill and restore some areas, work which was done.

The Corps is addressing new illegal fill, which has generated the cease and desist order. North said he expects the Corps to turn over that matter to EPA shortly.

Kozned said he expects the wetlands issues to be resolved.

But the order and other issues have caused delays that will set completion of the first antenna back at least a year, he said.

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