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Omega Tower a Danger to Birds

11/29/2016:

The United States Navy approved activation of a Very Low Frequency Navy facility at LaMoure, North Dakota, in 1968. The new facility was needed when the one in Annapolis, Maryland was decommissioned. The purpose of the tower was to provide the equipment and support for the Defense Communications System. The Omega radio navigations system was developed by the Navy for military aviation. It was the first truly global radio navigation system. The LaMoure facility was one of a chain that included Argentina, Norway, Liberia, France, Japan, and Australia. The two American stations, in North Dakota and Hawaii, were operated by the Coast Guard. Today’s Global Positioning System, or GPS, is more cost-effective, and it came online in the 1990s. The cost of the Omega system could no longer be justified, and it was permanently shut down in 1997. Many of the towers were destroyed. The tower at LaMoure, however, was altered to serve as a submarine communications base.

The tower was 1200 feet tall. When it was proposed, some environmentalists expressed concern. They feared that the tower would be a danger to birds, especially those that were migrating. On this date in 1972, the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center reported that the fear of substantial bird deaths had come true. Approximately 1,000 birds were killed in one year, primarily in the spring and fall. Songbirds that migrated at night represented the largest percentage of those killed. The night flying birds were attracted by the red lights and became confused. They were killed when they flew into the tower and the guy wires. The largest numbers of dead birds were found within 150 feet of the tower.

As recently as 2012, a report indicated that the tower, which still stands, remained a serious threat to migrating birds. Nationwide, researchers have estimated that towers kill 6.8 million birds annually.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher

Sources:

Grand Forks Herald. “Omega tower fatal to birds.” 29 November, 1972

Global Security. “Omega Station OMSTA LaMoure, North Dakota.” "http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/lamoure.htm" http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/lamoure.htm Accessed 30 October, 2016.

Avery, Michael L. and Paul F. Springer. “Investigation of Bird Migration and Mortality at the Omega Navigation Station, LaMoure, North Dakota: Fall, 1972 and Spring, 1973.” Bird Control Seminars Proceedings, Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management. October, 1973.

New York Times.com. “A Lethal Beacon for Migrating Birds.” "http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/25/a-lethal-beacon-for-migrating-birds/" http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/25/a-lethal-beacon-for-migrating-birds/ Accessed 30 October, 2016.