MARTINEZ -- Contra Costa's Planning Commission has shined some light on safety measures for marking meteorological towers that can prove hazardous to aircraft.

The county panel recommended this week that safety precautions for the towers, used by wind farm developers to locate wind farms, mirror a new state law -- with one exception.

Included in the proposal is a provision that aviation light beacons be required atop towers 150 feet and taller, which is optional under state regulations. Towers less than 150 feet may require lights, though that would be decided by the county zoning administrator, who would look at factors such as location and visibility.

The tower lights must meet Federal Aviation Administration standards in all cases.

"It was something we wanted to explore," Commissioner Doug Stewart said.

The commission delayed a decision in March, asking for more information on the pros and cons of adding lights.

"I think it definitely adds a level of safety," Stewart said.

Initial language in the state bill had required lights, but that was dropped before adoption of the final version of the law.

Contra Costa's proposed rules 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.


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

The state legislation, signed in law this past fall, came in response to a 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.

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

The item will be brought before the Board of Supervisors for final action sometime this summer, Moreira said.

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