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Cape Wind Farm and the destabilization of Nantucket Sound  

In 1776, King George briefed his admirals on the hazards of Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound.

This natural phenomenon is nothing more than a huge sand dune below the surface of Nantucket Sound, and for all practical purposes, invisible to the naked eye. Located almost in the center of Nantucket Sound, this sandbar is shaped by the flooding and ebbing currents that constantly tear down and rebuild this sandbar twice every 24 hours.

The flooding tide moves at a speed of up to 3 miles per hour on its march east over and around Horseshoe Shoal. Taking with it thousands of cubic yards of sand east as the tide slows and eventually goes slack, the sand is dropped and settles to the bottom.

The process now reverses itself. The ebbing tide now begins its march west racing over and around Horseshoe Shoal at up to 3 miles an hour carrying with it the sand that was removed by the flooding tide and rebuilding Horseshoe Shoal. On and on it has gone for hundreds of years. This natural phenomenon provides equilibrium to maintenance of not only Horseshoe Shoal, but all of Nantucket Sound.

Nantucket Sound’s topography above and below the water is nothing more than millions of cubic yards of sand. What you do not see are thousands of acres of salt water-saturated sandbars that are very unstable and define their shape, height and depth by the forces of flooding and ebbing tides – set and drift.

In the case of Horseshoe Shoal, the northwest corner is 6 miles southeast of Osterville and only 1 foot below the surface at mean low tide. You can be 6 miles southeast of Osterville in the middle of Nantucket Sound and at low tide get out of your boat and stand in 1 foot of water. Enjoy the view, but be careful if you go west a hundred yards; this sandbar plunges suddenly to a depth of 92 feet. You are standing on a sheer wall of saturated sand that rises almost vertically 92 feet from the bottom of Nantucket Sound. All of Horseshoe Shoal is not that close to the surface. Much of the shoal is 10 to 25 feet below the surface.

Cape Wind would like us to believe they are building in the shallows. But, in fact, Horseshoe Shoal is nothing but a sandbar the size of Manhattan Island that can be blown away with a fire hose.

Let’s explore the dynamics. As stated earlier, the flooding and ebbing tides rush over and around Horseshoe Shoal at velocities approaching 3 miles an hour twice every 24 hours. All of Nantucket Sound – a body of water roughly two-thirds the size of the state of Rhode Island – is on the move 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, keeping its timetable with the universe to arrive at high and low tides on time.

Building 130 concrete towers into the floor of Nantucket Sound 92 feet below the surface and rising above the surface will create a huge wall of resistance to the natural set and drift of the tides. As this huge body of water makes its way east to arrive at high tide on time, it will be met with enormous resistance causing huge eddies around all of the 130 foundations. As the tide moves past row upon row of foundations, the resistance will increase; and the velocity around the foundations will increase with turbulent eddies dredging millions of cubic yards of sand away from Horseshoe Shoal. Redefining the natural balance will lead to the following possible scenarios:

1. The shoaling of the main channel at half moon shoal and cross rid shoal closing the main shipping channel between Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

2. Shoaling in of Edgartown Harbor entrance.

3. Shoaling in of the passage between Eldridge Shoal and Horseshoe Shoal restricting ferry traffic from Hyannis to Martha’s Vineyard.

4. Shoaling the entrance to Nantucket restricting ferry traffic to the island. In 1849, the whaling ships were unable to pass over the bar at the entrance to Nantucket. The whaling industry was diverted to New Bedford, resulting in the financial collapse of Nantucket. The disastrous depression lasted for 100 years.

These are possible ruinous scenarios that could plunge Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket into economic ruin without fuel, food, medical supplies and tourist dollars able to reach the islands. The result of the relocation of millions of cubic yards of sand will foul the shipping channels leaving the deepest water in Nantucket Sound in and around the 130 Cape Wind Farm turbine foundations.

The plot thickens. Cape Wind completes the project, sells the wind farm, pockets millions, moves on without any accountability for what they have left behind. The new owners may say at some point, “This is not working” and abandon the wind farm leaving behind 130 concrete foundations built to specifications that surpass the construction of the World War II observation towers that still dot the eastern shoreline. To date, no one has been able to remove one of these towers. Nantucket Sound will have 130 of these monoliths, a transformer platform with thousands of gallons of cooling oil and hundreds of miles of power cables dangling in several fathoms of water – Horseshoe Shoal is gone!

If attempts were made to remove this industrial complex, the blasting concussions and nitrates in the water will kill all marine life in Nantucket Sound.

Disaster is only a signature away.

Stuart R. Swan


This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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