Both the developers and the critics of the offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound are urging the public to make themselves heard on the issue, either by sending comments to federal regulators or by attending a public hearing in Yarmouth next week.
Susan Nickerson, executive director of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, spoke at a rally co-sponsored by the Chatham Chamber of Commerce last Thursday.
“Bring your friends, bring your relatives,” Nickerson told the meeting at Chatham Bars Inn. The alliance is a member of the chamber of commerce.
Cape Wind Associates has proposed building 130 wind turbines on Horseshoe Shoal, and a draft environmental impact statement issued by the federal Minerals Management Service (MMS) is seen as largely favorable to the project. The MMS is accepting comments on the document through March 20, and is holding its only public hearing on Cape Cod next week. The meeting will take place at Mattacheese Middle School in Yarmouth on Monday, March 10 at 6 p.m.
Nickerson called the draft environmental impact statement “half baked,” saying it lacks key information from the Coast Guard and the FAA about the project’s navigational impacts. The statement also lacked an adequate explanation of the effects on migratory birds, Nickerson said.
“Those of you who live in Chatham are keenly aware of the amount of bird activity,” she said.
Selectman Ronald Bergstrom, a shellfisherman, argued that the wind farm would harm the aesthetics of Nantucket Sound, and a pristine, natural environment is “the basis of our economy on the Cape.” Bergstrom said he knows some wind farm critics have drawn fire for seeking to protect their oceanfront views, but everyone is entitled to protect the places where they live.
Bergstrom said there is a danger that wind farm opponents will lose their focus because the project has been in the works for so many years. He likened the debate to the one over the disposition of the Main Street School. “That went on for like 10 years,” Bergstrom said. Those who want to stop the project shouldn’t lose sight of their mission, he said.
“The guys who are building this are not going to lose sight of this,” Bergstrom said.
Resident Ernie Eldredge, a commercial fisherman, said he believes the wind turbines and power cables will harm fish stocks, because Horseshoe Shoal is an essential habitat for juvenile and migrating fish. The electrical leakage and heat generated by the equipment might harm fish, he said, and “these questions have never been answered.” The draft statement by the MMS predicts “negligible to minor” effects on commercial fishing, but Eldredge is unimpressed.
“It’s a pretty callous statement for people’s livelihoods,” he said.
Interviewed separately Tuesday, Cape Wind Associates’ Communications Director Mark Rodgers said a number of government agencies have studied the wind farm’s effects on fisheries for several years, “and there aren’t facts to back up these doom-and-gloom claims,” he said. The turbines will be separated by at least six football fields’ distance, and federal catch data indicate that, of all the federal waters in Nantucket Sound, only about 4 percent of commercial dragging happens within the project area. Around offshore wind farms in Europe, the structures have the same effect as an artificial reef, actually helping fish populations, Rodgers said.
Rodgers said it’s laughable that a flyer distributed by the alliance states that the wind farm will be visible locally from “historic Monomoy Light,” an unattended nonworking lighthouse near the tip of Monomoy Point, which is itself only visible from the mainland at certain times. The wind turbines will be “barely visible off the right side of the horizon, from the portion of the coastline that faces Nantucket Sound, on clear days,” Rodgers said.
Some wind farm critics have raised concerns about an oil spill caused by the project’s transformer platform, to be located in the center of the group of turbines. Rodgers said the real risk of offshore oil spills comes from the tankers of fuel oil that travel around Cape Cod, not from the “highly refined mineral oil stored in a robust stationary structure” in triple-walled containment.
“The risk of oil spills are what we saw in Buzzards Bay in 2003,” he said, referring to the Bouchard Transportation Co. barge that ran aground in the bay, spilling up to 93,000 gallons of fuel oil.
During the Chatham meeting, Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound representatives urged volunteers to make telephone calls, distribute flyers, and send emails to friends to alert them to Monday’s public hearing. Nickerson said that Cape Wind will be bringing in busloads of off-Cape union members to support the project, and a strong showing of opponents is needed.
Rodgers acknowledged that the project enjoys strong support from union members and environmentalists from off-Cape, but said he believes that a majority of people on Cape Cod also support the project.
By Alan Pollock
5 March 2008
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