Waterford Landowners Oppose Radio Tower Proposal
WATERFORD - All appears peaceful and serene looking out from the hilltop home of the Sherwood Leasks toward a 3,000-to 4,000-foot Dry Creek Valley below, where cattle raze contentedly and sandy loam soil produces an abundance of grapes and orchard crops. But some 40 landowners are bestirring the silence, voicing loud concern over what they feel is an intrusion of commercialism and a threat to the beauty of their valley nestled between the rolling foothills.
The threat they fear is the proposed installation of four 300-foot radio towers, each with blinking lights, by Modesto radio station KTRB. It is the plan of the station's owners, Big Valley Broadcasting Co., to raise the radio station's signal strength to 50,000 watts, broadcasting on both the AM and FM dials, the latter over KHOP. They would be among the most powerful stations in the nation.
"It is visual pollution in the heart of prime agricultural land.... why not have billboards, too," disgustedly declares William R. Jones, a Leask neighbor whose 230 acres of vineyards produces alicante bouchet grapes for the Canadian market. The vineyard he has tended there for 18 years was planted 50 years ago. He is among the 40 landowners preparing to lead a fight before the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors at 10:30 a.m. March 23, when the supervisors will hold a hearing on Big Valley's plea for a permit to install the towers and a building on about 60 acres of land in the valley off Timbell Road.
Landowners already have lost one round in the fight. The County Planning Commission voted 4-2 Feb. 19 to allow the development, sending the last hope of the valley's residents to the county supervisors. Leask said he first learned of KTRB's plans about a month before the Planning Commission's hearing, not allowing sufficient time to muster objections. Now retired, Leask once ran a dairy on 650 acres of valley land in his family 56 years. He and his wife moved uphill to their hilltop home 23 years ago.
"We cut off the top of the hill and built us a home here ... we intend to stay," said Mrs. Leask. They and other landowners object to what they call "visual pollution they feel the big towers will bring. They also say it is commercialism. The latter objection they base on the Williamson Act - property owners have their land included in agricultural preserve agreements. They say that under the Williamson Act, farmland is supposed to be preserved also for social and esthetic values - and they say such commercial radio towers do not meet the exception stated in the law providing for "facilities for public utilities and communication towers." "My interpretation of this wording is "public communication towers said Jones. He holds that a communication tower is two-way, the type used by public agencies for talking back and forth on radio, as compared with broadcasting, which is one way.
Jones also voices strong objection to the towers from another standpoint. He said his vineyards can only be sprayed by crop dusters from a north south direction. If the towers are erected, he said, it will make aerial spraying hazardous from those directions and force east-west spraying - which is not feasible because of wind.
3-16-76 (Courtesy Modesto Bee)
Two of the four towers looking east.
The photos above were taken by the late Chief Engineer Les Lester, and contributed by Duane Thompson of Ceres, CA.
KTRB builds transmitter site near Waterford, CA.
In 1975 Modesto radio station KTRB was granted a license by the FCC to increase their daytime power from 10,000 watts to 50,000 watts.The increase required the Pappas Broadcasting Company station to move it's transmitting site off Norwegian Ave. in Modesto, to 16 acres of farmland purchased NE of Waterford, CA near the intersection of Timbell and Claribel Roads. Construction began in the spring of 1976 and completed in late summer.
Four slightly less than 300 foot tower and new concrete block buildings were erected to house the new transmitter and related equipment. The project was designed and engineered by well known Modesto radio consulting engineer Cecil Lynch. KTRB's Chief Engineer Les Lester supervised construction of the new site with assistance from retired station Chief Engineer Cliff Price. Rex Conley was in charge of building construction. The antennas on Norwegian Ave.erected in 1942, were torn down in 1979.
KTRB'S Norwegian Ave. antennas aerial view taken in late 50's or early 60's.
KTRB Moving to San Francisco
KMPH 840 KHz replaced the original KTRB on July 10, 2006.