In the bright afternoon sun, Brian Borgeson’s face turned red with the effort of unloading bay scallops from his skiff onto the wharf in Nantucket Harbor.
“These are the days you live out here for,” he said exultantly.
Even though he probably had too many scallops to shuck to make last night’s public hearing on the wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound, he certainly had his opinions.
“I think alternative energy is a great idea. I’m all for it, but Nantucket is the Indian word for not in my backyard,” he quipped.
Borgeson, like many Nantucketers interviewed yesterday and who later spoke at the hearing in the Nantucket High School auditorium, was torn between the nation’s need for alternative energy sources and the belief that the Sound is the wrong place for wind turbines.
Yesterday’s hearing was the second of four scheduled this week on a draft environmental report on Cape Wind Associates’ plan to build 130 wind turbines in the Sound. Nantucket’s seaside views would be the least affected of the land masses surrounding the Sound, with the proposed turbines at least 14 miles from shore.
But aesthetics was only one of the concerns for the 350 islanders and visitors who attended yesterday’s five-hour hearing and those interviewed beforehand.
Nantucket Shellfish Warden Dwayne Dougan said the Sound could be an unfriendly and unpredictable place.
“I was flying back and forth (between the island and the Cape) for a couple of years, and I’d see ice forming and breaking up from one side to the other,” Dougan said before the hearing.
Dougan also couldn’t resist pointing out the irony that, with the push for alternative energy, his request to put solar shingles on his home was turned down by the island’s historic district commission.
At last night’s hearing, other islanders saw hypocrisy in neighbors who have contributed to the development boom on Nantucket but opposed development of a wind farm in the Sound.
“The sweeping vistas of the middle moors have been forever marred by this ever encroaching march of mansions,” Alison Inglis said. “These gargantuan structures are much more visible than the proposed wind farm.”
A long line of wind farm supporters from the island said Cape Wind was necessary to move the nation further down the path toward more renewable sources of energy.
Donald Freedman said he was “in the middle of the road,” when Cape Wind was first proposed. But after he heard the facts, Freedman said he was convinced the project was a good idea. “We need it so Nantucket can be a beautiful place for not just our children but our grandchildren,” he said.
Other Cape Wind supporters tried to dispel concerns over safety.
“I’ve been sailing Nantucket Harbor and the Sound for over 70 years,” Pete Sawyer said.
“I think even the Figawi can manage to sail through a channel that’s a half-mile wide,” he said, referring to the famed summer sailboat race between Hyannis and Nantucket.
But ferry and aviation representatives said safety is a concern, and they urged the U.S. Minerals Management Service to conduct a painstaking review of Cape Wind’s plan. The federal agency is conducting this week’s hearings and represents one of the biggest regulatory hurdles remaining for Cape Wind to clear.
“I encourage you to take your time on this issue,” Nantucket Memorial Airport manager Al Peterson said.
Fishermen were well represented at last night’s hearing.
Nantucket fisherman Bob DeCosta, who said he has 40 years of fishing experience, was worried that construction of the turbines could devastate fish larvae and eggs that are spawned at the proposed wind farm site.
“I am very concerned about devastation to habitat,” he said.
In January, the Minerals Management Service released a draft environmental report on Cape Wind. Following a public comment period that ends on April 21, the federal agency will prepare final report on Cape Wind. The Minerals Management Service, which is a branch of the U.S. Department of the Interior, is expected to release a decision on the project sometime next winter.
The Minerals Management Service’s public hearings continue at 5 p.m. today at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in Oak Bluffs.
The venue for the final hearing was changed yesterday to accommodate more people. The Clark Athletic Center at the University of Massachusetts in South Boston is now set to host the last hearing at 6 p.m. tomorrow.
By Doug Fraser
also by Patrick Cassidy
12 February 2008
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