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349-foot radio tower toppled by culprits

Two radio station towers were toppled early Friday, and the station's manager said an ecoterrorist group's initials were left at the scene.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Two radio station towers were toppled early Friday, and the station’s manager said an ecoterrorist group’s initials were left at the scene. An e-mail to a newspaper said the Earth Liberation Front was responsible.

A sign bearing the letters ELF was found near the towers, said Andy Skotdal, general manager of KRKO Radio in Everett, about 25 miles north of Seattle. The group is a loose collection of radical environmentalists that has claimed responsibility for dozens of attacks since the 1990s.

The towers were torn down because of health and environmental concerns, according to an e-mail to The Herald of Everett from the North American ELF Press Office, which has represented the shadowy group in the past.

“We have to weigh our priorities, and the local ecosystem in Everett, along with the local residents, do not need additional sports news radio station towers that come at the expense of reduced property values and harmful radio waves,” ELF press office spokesman Jason Crawford said in an e-mail.

The group’s Web site featured a picture of one of the towers lying on its site with the caption “Earth Liberation Front Topples Two Radio Station Towers in Snohomish County, WA,” followed by the words “Details coming soon.”

A call to ELF press office for comment Friday morning was not immediately returned.

Snohomish County sheriff’s office spokeswoman Rebecca Hover wouldn’t confirm that a sign was found.

Bulldozer seen being used
A neighbor told a 911 operator that someone seemed to attacking the towers with a bulldozer at about 3:30 a.m., Hover told The Herald. A 349-foot tower and a smaller tower were found on the ground with heavy construction equipment nearby, but deputies and a tracking dog didn’t find any suspects, Hover said.

Deputies found other, unspecified evidence at the scene, she said.

The FBI has taken over the lead of the investigation, Hover said in a statement.

The family-owned station remained on the air Friday morning after shifting to other transmission equipment.

KRKO’s plans to increase its transmission capacity have been embroiled for more than a decade in appeals and litigation over issues ranging from trumpeter swan habitat to potential health hazards to humans.

The addition to the station’s existing towers in the town of Snohomish, east of Everett, were completed in February, allowing KRKO to boost its AM signal to where it could compete with larger broadcasters in the Seattle-Tacoma area. Neighbors have since complained of interference from radio signals on home telephone and intercom lines.

Earlier attacks tied to ELF
An ELF sign was left on March 3, 2008, at the scene of fires set at a number of houses in a Street of Dreams development at Echo Lake, north of Seattle. Street of Dreams is an annual showcase of new luxury homes in the Seattle area.

ELF also has claimed responsibility for other arsons in the region, including a fire that destroyed the Center for Urban Horticulture at the University of Washington in Seattle in 2001.

The Skotdal family also plans to build two 199-foot towers at the same site for a new 5,000-watt AM station that would cover Snohomish County on another frequency.

A hearing examiner denied a permit for the towers, based on claims that radio signals could be dangerous to humans. But the council voted to reverse the finding, saying it was based on shaky scientific evidence.

A King County judge upheld the council’s decision on Aug. 14.

“When all legal channels of opposition have been exhausted, concerned citizens have to take action into their own hands to protect life and the planet,” Crawford said in the e-mail.

Skotdal has said he hopes to get the new signal on the air by the end of the year.