As reported on March 20, several states have made
significant strides in establishing visibility requirements for low-level
towers, with Washington and Colorado completing their efforts. Unfortunately,
Oklahoma’s governor, Mary Fallin, vetoed the state’s bill that passed
overwhelmingly in both houses of the Oklahoma legislature.
Gov. Jay Inslee signs SB-6054, Washington State’s tower marking legislation. Surrounding Gov. Inslee from left to right are Rep. Brian Blake, Chair of the House Ag Committee; Mark Doumit, Executive Director of Washington Forest Protection Association (WFPA); Rep. Ed Orcutt of the House Transportation Committee (Ranking Minority Member); AWAA Executive Secretary Erin Morse with Magdalene Morse; AWAA President Gavin Morse; and John Erenrich, WFPA
The Aeronautic Safety Bill, SB-6054, was signed into law by
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on March 28. The measure was backed by the
Association of Washington Aerial Applicators (AWAA) and shepherded through the
legislature by the bill sponsor, Sen. Jim Honeyford with the help of AWAA
President Gavin Morse, and AWAA lobbyist Heather Hansen.
The law is one of the strictest in the nation, requiring
most guy-wired towers over 25 feet to be marked and lighted. The penalty for
noncompliance with the new law is a misdemeanor, punishable by a minimum
24-hour jail sentence and $250 fine on the first offense. Other organizations
supporting the bill included the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA)
and Washington Pilots Association (WPA). Additional details can be found in
AWAA’s press release here.
In an effort spearheaded by the Colorado Agricultural
Aviation Association (CoAAA), and with help from the National Transportation
Safety Board, both houses cleared Colorado’s tower marking bill last week. The
bill is now slated to be signed next Saturday, May 17, in a signing ceremony by
Gov. John Hickenlooper. The measure requires all towers between 50 and 100
feet to be marked with aviation orange and white, balls, and cable sleeves, and
violators would be guilty of a Class 2 Misdemeanor, with a penalty of 3-12
months in county jail and/or a fine up to $1,000. NAAA congratulates CoAAA
Executive Director Jessica Freeman and the Colorado association for their hard
fought victory in enacting this legislation.
In Oklahoma, however, the outcome of tower marking
legislation was disheartening as Gov. Mary Fallin chose to veto such a bill
passed by the state legislature. The bill was authored by Sen. Charles Wyrick
(D-Fairland), whose son is an aerial applicator and who authored the bill
following the tragic accident in Oklahoma last season that resulted in an ag
aviator’s death. The bill would have required the marking of MET towers over 50
feet effective Nov.1, punishable by a $100-per-day fine until the owner of the
tower complied with the bill’s requirements.
Fallin said in her veto message in regards to Senate Bill
1195 that the marking process could better be handled through “administrative
rule making and civil remedies, rather than through criminal penalties… Anemometer
towers are appropriately regulated through Airport Zoning Act and the Aircraft
Pilot and Passenger Protection Act.” However, the explanatory statement
accompanying the bill stated clearly that these two acts could not be used
because they explicitly pertain to airports and not all lands.
Some in the state legislature believe it may be possible to
override the veto, as the bill passed with an overwhelming majority, however
it’s currently unclear which course of action the bill’s sponsors plan to take.
NAAA will continue to follow this issue.