MARTINEZ -- Following the state's lead, Contra Costa County is poised to tighten its rules for marking meteorological towers that might prove hazardous to aircraft.

However, county planning commissioners postponed taking action this week, asking for more information about adding aviation light beacons atop towers 150 feet and taller.

The item will be brought back to the planning commission at its April 23 meeting.

The state approved legislation last fall in response to the January 2011 fatal crash of agricultural pilot Stephen Allen after his airplane struck a 198-foot tower on Webb Tract that he likely did not see. The tower was erected in 2009.

The county's proposed ordinance, which incorporates the state law, also would include requirements that all meteorological towers 50 to 200 feet tall be marked with thick, alternating stripes of orange and white paint, 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.

The state law kicked in this year.

The galvanized towers are usually about 12 inches thick, with coloring that "is hard to see against the skyline," county planner Telma Moreira said.

Moreira told commissioners Tuesday that the county ordinance is a "little more conservative" than the state law, allowing for more restrictions on tower locations than just those on agricultural land, including permitting procedures and restrictions on how far it can be from property boundaries.


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Towers also will not be restricted for county districts zoned for residential and water recreational uses.

Commissioners Don Snyder and Doug Stewart asked for lights to be considered.

"I have a problem (with approving it) without the lights on top. I think they are a must," Stewart said.

Board chair Marvin Terrell said he had no problem having staff gather more information, though he questioned if Federal Aviation Administration rules would come into play.

"I'm interested in knowing more," he said.

Initial language in the state bill required that a light be placed at the highest point of each tower, but that was dropped before the final version of the law was adopted.

State law makes a tower light optional.

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

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

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.