Most of us know about LaMoure because we’ve either been there or we’re familiar with Loboes sports teams, namely football and volleyball, in recent state tournaments.
LaMoure is just like any other small-town county seat in North Dakota. Its economy is based on farming. In fact, R.D. Offutt, synonymous with John Deere, got its start in Lisbon and LaMoure in the late ‘70s. LaMoure has a good school system, a strong Main Street and other attractions like nearby Lake LaMoure and it’s about 100 miles southwest of Fargo.
But LaMoure has another… I’m not sure you’d call it an attraction… but it’s definitely obvious as you come into town from either direction on N.D. Highway 13.
Not for tourists, it’s the Navy’s 1,200-foot Omega Tower. This tower has baffled a lot of people, including some who live in LaMoure County. Why would the Navy operate a communications tower in the middle of the country in landlocked LaMoure, North Dakota?
Right out of high school in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I lived in nearby Edgeley and dated a couple of girls from LaMoure. I found out back then the tower was owned by the Coast Guard and was a relay point for communication between both oceans.
When GPS became fully operational, it made Omega obsolete and the tower was shut down in 1997. The Navy re-opened it in 2011 as a communications link to submarines. According to Navy public affairs, Omega transmits a low frequency radio signal that can penetrate solid rock and reach deep into either ocean, making it ideal for subsurface communication.
When the tower was built in the late ‘60s, it brought numerous military families to LaMoure. By 1979, when I moved to Edgeley for a job, the tower location had six military personnel operating the facility. Today, the Navy contracts with civilian employees who operate it.
If you look around the state, there are plenty of TV, radio and cellular towers that reach 1,200 feet in the sky. And when you drive past the Omega Tower just west of LaMoure, it looks like any other radio or TV tower, except for maybe the fence around the grounds.
The tower, and its presence in this southeast North Dakota community, has had a lasting impact on LaMoure itself. Most notably is the Omega Plaza in downtown LaMoure. Yes, it’s one of the smallest communities in the state with a shopping center and its namesake comes from the tower.
There’s also the Omega Motel and the “Omega Room” in one of the local restaurants.
That’s about the extent of it. The residents and city leaders of LaMoure were savvy enough to not over do the “Omega” designation. Some communities will take a unique opportunity like this and completely blow it out of proportion. For all intents and purposes, LaMoure hasn’t done that.
LaMoure is in the James River Valley, approximately 65 miles to the southeast of Jamestown, 20 miles east of Edgeley and 30 miles southwest of Lisbon. The tower itself, also sits in the James River Valley, so just imagine this tower communicating to the depths of the Pacific Ocean as you drive out of the valley east or west.
Consider this as well. The Omega Tower is 1,515 nautical miles from San Francisco Bay and it’s 3,200 nautical miles from Hawaii. And we have trouble here in western North Dakota getting KFGO radio in Fargo, about 300 miles to our southeast.
The Omega Tower is really an interesting little place, and it’s little geographically, probably less than an acre, but it’s quite strategic and is an effective communications tool for the U.S. military.
So if you’re ever in that neighborhood, take a look and marvel at what the Omega Tower is and what it does. Meanwhile we’ll keep our eyes on the Loboes football and volleyball teams as they work toward the 2022 state tournaments.