Caution: Wind turbines on Nantucket Sound might appear closer than they are.
The U.S. Minerals Management Service found little to complain about in a draft environmental report on Cape Wind’s plan to erect 130 turbines on Nantucket Sound. The report was released Monday.
But a host of government agencies, opponents of the project and the general public are delving into the federal agency’s environmental review and its implications. And Cape Wind must still secure at least 19 assorted approvals and permits before construction can begin.
From a cautionary letter written by the acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration to strict conditions imposed by the Coast Guard, the project faces several more challenges.
The FAA “issued a presumed hazard determination for the Cape Wind project,” according to a Jan. 11 letter written by Robert Sturgell, acting administrator of the air travel agency.
In the letter, addressed to U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, D—Mass., and U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, Sturgell wrote that public comments in response to the hazard finding “raised additional concerns the Cape Wind project may have previously unidentified adverse effects on visual flight rules” between airports on the Cape and Islands.
The FAA, Sturgell wrote, would require further investigation that should be complete this spring.
Opponents of Cape Wind pounced on the FAA missive as proof that the Minerals Management Service used old information in its report.
In telephone interviews this week, Minerals Management Service and Cape Wind officials said they did not know about the FAA letter.
“We’re unaware of any presumed hazard from FAA,” said Nicolette Nye, a spokeswoman for the Minerals Management Service.
Any new information from FAA research would be included in the final version of the Mineral Management Service’s report, Nye said.
The FAA issued a no hazard determination previously, said Mark Rodgers, spokesman for Cape Wind. While Cape Wind was aware that the FAA had continued to study the project, the company was not informed the hazard determination had changed, he said.
The confusion apparently is linked to FAA documentation included in the environmental report the Mineral Management Service released Monday. An FAA public notice about the agency’s continued study of Cape Wind does not use the words “presumed hazard.” Instead, it says Cape Wind “exceeds obstruction standards.”
Once an “obstruction evaluation” is begun, the presumed hazard determination is automatic, according to FAA spokeswoman Arlene Salac.
Coast Guard conditions included in an appendix to the nearly 2,000-page Minerals Management Service document also raised eyebrows.
The Coast Guard required a “researched analysis” of the effects of wind turbines on marine communications and navigation systems.
The Coast Guard’s conditions would require the Minerals Management Service and Coast Guard to determine whether “identified impacts, if any, allow for an acceptable risk to navigation safety.”
Wayne Kurker, owner of Hyannis Marina and a co-founder of the anti-Cape Wind group the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, said it would be impossible for the project to meet the Coast Guard requirements.
“The Steamship doesn’t see it, the Hy-Line doesn’t see it, the commercial fisherman can’t see it,” Kurker said of the ferries and fishing boat operators that work in the area.
“We are going to comply with the conditions from the Coast Guard,” he said. “It’s something we can do.”
As long as Cape Wind meets those conditions the Coast Guard should be satisfied, said Edward LeBlanc, chief of the Coast Guard Waterways Management Division. “Our concerns are fully addressed in the terms and conditions for Cape Wind to meet.”
Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said this week that they had not read the Mineral Management Service’s report but promised to weigh in during the public comment period that begins Friday and runs through March 20.
By Patrick Cassidy
Cape Cod Times staff writer
16 January 2008
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