Both sides in the debate over the 130-turbine wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound claimed vindication yesterday in a federal report that designates a buffer zone around military radar.
The nine-page report by the Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency says turbines outside a buffer zone emanating approximately 25-kilometers, or 15.5 miles, from the Air Force-run PAVE PAWS radar station in Sagamore should not cause a problem.
The hotly debated Cape Wind project missed being in the zone by 1.4 miles.
PAVE PAWS is one of two radar facilities of its kind in the continental United States and five worldwide responsible for missile warning and space surveillance. The facility’s buffer zone includes much of the Upper Cape to Yarmouth and parts of the coastline northwest to Plimoth Plantation.
Rick Lehner, a spokesman for the Missile Defense Agency, said the report clearly shows the Cape Wind project would have no affect on the Cape Cod-based PAVE PAWS operation.
“It’s far enough away, so there is no issue with the radar beam,” Lehner said.
The report is an analysis only, and the Defense Department is not a permitting agency for Cape Wind. It is the third such report to be issued, and each time the Cape Wind project has not been considered of concern to the PAVE PAWS radar.
“The report is clear,” said Mark Rodgers, spokesman for Cape Wind Associates, the Boston-based company behind the project. “Cape Wind is outside of the wind turbine offset zone. …
“It puts the PAVE PAWS issue to rest.”
But Cape Wind opponents said the margins are too thin.
“This further confirms that this is just a bad location for this project,” said Charles Vinick, president and CEO of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, the leading Cape Wind opposition group.
The proximity of the Cape Wind project to the edge of the buffer zone is “too close for comfort,” Vinick said.
And the use of the word “approximately” in the report is not much an assurance when it comes to national security, he said. “Cape Wind accused us of making this stuff up,” Vinick said of a potential impact of wind turbines on radar effectiveness. “We’re not making this stuff up.”
Rep. William Delahunt,, D-Mass., who called for the initial study on the potential impactof wind turbines on radar last year agreed with project opponents yesterday.
“Clearly there has to be further studies because there cannot be a margin of error,” Delahunt said. “We know that radar interference is a real issue.”
The report was too fresh to comment on Friday, said Lt. Col. Christopher Gentry, commander of the 6th Space Warning Squadron that runs PAVE PAWS.
Once an expert at the Air Force Space Command in Colorado has had an opportunity to analyze the report, the Air Force will release a statement, Gentry said.
Earlier this year, Gentry said the turbines would have no adverse effect on radar operations.
In the wake of the certification of the state environmental impact report in March, Cape Wind has already begun the process of obtaining approval from the 18 local, state and federal agencies who must sign off on the project.
A draft environmental impact report is expected to be released by the U.S. Department of Interior Minerals Management Service in August.
By Patrick Cassidy
16 June 2007
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