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Governor signs bill that adds safety measures to meteorological towers

SACRAMENTO – Pilots in the state will soon have an easier time spotting meteorological towers thanks to some stricter standards signed into law this week.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Monday that requires towers standing 50 feet and taller to be clearly marked with bright aviation colors.

Questions about the risk to pilots from towers with no markings were raised in this newspaper following a fatal plane crash in January 2011 on a Delta island in Contra Costa County.

Federal law requires that towers 200 feet and taller be painted in bright aviation colors and lit, but towers shorter than 200 feet fall under the purview of local governments.

On Jan. 10, 2011, agricultural pilot Stephen Allen was killed on Webb Tract after his airplane struck a 198-foot tower that he likely did not see, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report.

Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, said she sponsored the bill after learning about the circumstances of Allen’s “avoidable death.”

The new rules will applyto towers built after Jan. 1, 2013. It will sunset in five years.

The towers, some of which are only 12 inches wide, must be marked with thick, alternating stripes of orange and white, have orange tracking balls attached to each support wire, and a clear marking on the ground where the wires are anchored, including sleeves at each anchor point. Lights on the towers are not required.

Wind farm developers
use the towers to measure currents to find the best locations for new wind farms.