A bill by Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Solano, to require visible markings on meteorological evaluation towers was approved by the Senate Committee on Transportation this week by a unanimous vote.
AB 511 is Yamada’s second pass at trying to mark the nearly invisible towers to protect agricultural pilots who fly past the structures and can often miss seeing them. A bill last year by Yamada failed to garner enough support. This time around, she and staff have worked to revamp the proposal in order to remove opposition from the wind energy industry.
“I am pleased that we were able to reach consensus on this lifesaving and common-sense legislation,” Yamada said in a press release.
On Jan. 10, 2011, Stephen Allen, an experienced and respected agricultural pilot from Courtland, was killed when his plane struck an unmarked MET while seeding a field at Webb Tract in Contra Costa County. Witnesses on the scene claim that Allen never attempted to avoid the tower, indicating he likely never saw the tower before colliding with it. Federal Aviation Administra-tion (FAA) standards require towers 200 feet and over to be clearly marked with alternating bands of orange and white coloration and other visual cues. The MET that Allen crashed into was 198 feet tall.
Wind farm developers use METs to measure wind currents to find the best locations for new wind farms. And Yamada said they often build the towers just under the 200 foot height (just shy of FAA regulation). She said they “assemble them nearly overnight, place them in rural and isolated areas, and use a thin galvanized steel pole stabilized by guy wires to keep their measuring devices aloft.” That combination creates a “potentially deadly hazard for pilots flying at lower levels,” she added, because the galvanized steel pole used for the body of the towers is invisible at distances farther than half a mile as are the guy wires that support the tower.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding