News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Canyon radio efforts get huge boost

By James Day

Efforts to expand the radio signal of KYAC in the Santiam Canyon have received a $50,000 boost from Marion County.

At the regular quarterly meeting of the Marion County commissioners that was held Feb., 24 in Mill City it was announced that the county is contributing $49,700 in video lottery dollars to Hearts and Arts, the nonprofit group that sponsors KYAC and is working to expand the reach of the station in the Canyon, where it provided a vital lifeline during the September 2020 wildfires.

“We had looked and asked for help in funding from other organizations and committees,” said Ken Cartwright, general manager of KYAC. 

“We were surprised and delighted at the speed that Marion County acknowledged our request for help. There are many areas that could use those funds, including the Santiam Canyon, especially after the devastating fire. We are humbled and grateful to be selected. It can and will be used to benefit  all residents of the Canyon at no cost to them.” 

Hearts for Arts already has spent $17,000 in local fundraising on the first phase of the three-phase project. Phase 1 included a new transmitter and smart switch, a propane backup generator, a communications system and a 15-channel mixing board.

“Phase 1 puts the new frequency and power on the air by replacing the 100-watt transmitter with one capable of 500-plus watts,” said Cartwright, who also noted that the action will change the station’s frequency from 94.9 to 90.1 on the FM dial.

Phase II, which is expected to cost $30,000 to $35,000, will provide the basic transmitting system, Cartwright said. The pieces include a natural gas generator and smart switch, a link-up to the existing natural gas line, a custom-built directional antenna and antenna tower as well as hardware, wire, connectors and an air conditioner to keep the transmitter shed from overheating in the summer.

“Phase II will extend our direct signal as far east, south and west as technology and licensing will allow,” Cartwright said. “This will put us in a good position to be able to hear our signal at higher elevations in Detroit so that we can pick it up and rebroadcast the signal to Detroit and Idanha, which is Phase III.”

The third piece of the project involves the installation of a translator or repeater to serve Detroit and Idanha. This final phase will cost an estimated $10,000, with project backers noting that the county check will come close to paying for both the second and third phases.

KYAC, which has been broadcasting in the Canyon since 2014, and Heart of the Arts are facing a deadline of June 2023 to complete the 18-month project and upgrade their license to a Noncommercial Educational Content one. The new license has more rigorous standards for programming, funding and ownership than the station’s previous one.

“The license class will allow us to add translators or repeaters to our fringe areas with the first one being Detroit/Idanha,” Cartwright said. “They have very little radio signal in their area. They are a very important area for local radio. “

Phases II and III should be ready by June, Cartwright said, ending the hit or miss quality of the 100-watt signal, which was battling the topography of the Canyon and the remoteness of the towns.

Cartwright and Heart of the Arts are hoping to continue to expand and add a translator that will serve Stayton, Sublimity and Aumsville.

“They too are a part of the Santiam Canyon,” he said.

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