Ken Salazar Visits Tribes, Nantucket Sound As Part Of Wind Farm Review
By: Michael C. Bailey
It was a long, chilly day for Kenneth L. Salazar, US Secretary of the Interior, but his visit to Cape Cod Tuesday was also “very, very informative.”
Sec. Salazar, accompanied by staffers from his office and the US Minerals Management Service (MMS), traveled to the Cape hoping to add some first-hand knowledge to the considerable body of information already at his fingertips about the proposed Cape Cod Wind Farm.
“It was important for me to come here with our entire team from the Department of the Interior because there’s only so much that you can really learn from maps and you can learn from diagrams and you can learn from meetings in Washington, DC,” he told a large group of reporters during a brief press conference on the docks of US Coast Guard Station Woods Hole, immediately after spending part of his afternoon on the water – specifically, on Nantucket Sound, the proposed location for the wind farm.
Sec. Salazar said he was “bullish” about renewable energy in general and offshore wind power in particular, but was generally non-committal about how the site visit influenced his thoughts on the project one way or the other.
In making his final decision on the project, Sec. Salazar said he would bear in mind “three cardinal priorities” for his department: promoting renewable energy, a priority shared by the Obama Administration; upholding the department’s responsibilities in the area of historic preservation; and respecting “our relationships with the nation’s first Americans.”
The secretary’s day began before sunrise, when he joined members of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe at Popponesset Beach in Mashpee to view the sunrise over the sound. The sanctity of the tribe’s view of the sound is one of the key arguments the tribe is making against the wind farm; the tribe claims that that the presence of 120 417-foot-tall wind turbines on the Nantucket Sound would create a visual blight that would interfere with religious ceremonies involving the sound.
Afterwards Sec. Salazar traveled to Woods Hole where he and his team boarded the USCG cutter Ida Lewis and traveled to Martha’s Vineyard for a meeting with members of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe.
The third and final leg of the fact-finding mission brought the team back through Nantucket Sound and past Horseshoe Shoal, where developers Cape Wind Associates hope to build the wind farm. They also viewed the data collection tower that Cape Wind erected in 2003 to collect information about various conditions in the sound.
There were no members of either tribe aboard the vessel with Sec. Salazar and his team.
The site visit was part of Sec. Salazar’s effort to bring the Cape Cod Wind Farm review process to a conclusion by April. Sec. Salazar has given project developers and opponents until March 1 to reach a compromise on how to mitigate the wind farm’s impacts on cultural and historic resources of value to the tribes, and should these parties fail to arrive at a consensus, he will move on and issue a “record of decision” in April. (See sidebar)
Last month Sec. Salazar hosted a four-hour-long series of closed-door meetings with stakeholders on both sides of the project to discuss the 11th-hour hurdle that arose when the US National Park Service announced in January that Nantucket Sound was eligible for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).
The sound’s eligibility, according to a statement issued by the US National Park Service, stems from its value as a “traditional cultural property, and as an historic and archaeological property associated with and that has yielded and that has the potential to yield important information about the Native American exploration and settlement of Cape Cod and the Islands.”
Sec. Salazar said this week that when he issues a record of decision, it will either be an approval or denial of the project at its current proposed site. An approval could come with conditions, Sec. Salazar said, but if he rejected the project he would not attach to that rejection a recommendation to relocate the project to another site.
He stressed that a denial of Cape Wind would not sound the death knell for offshore wind energy development. “There is a huge potential for wind energy in America, both onshore as well as offshore,” Sec. Salazar said, and the federal government is continuing to identify the best locations for offshore wind facilities along the East Coast.
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