On Sunday night opponents of wind development off Vineyard shores – including selectmen, fishermen, Wampanoags and a Republican candidate for Massachusetts governor – were given a megaphone to voice their views.
Hosted by POINT (Protect Our Islands Now for Tomorrow), a group led by Andrew Goldman of Chilmark, the forum drew a large crowd to the Chilmark Community Center.
“We will have the largest concentration of turbines anywhere in the world,” declared Mr. Goldman, who moderated the forum.
And while he acknowledged the need to reduce the output of atmospheric carbon dioxide, Mr. Goldman directly challenged Gov. Deval Patrick’s focus on the technology, particularly in Vineyard waters. He cited unchecked political machinery and an ongoing concern for the ecological impacts of the turbines.
West Tisbury selectman Richard Knabel agreed, lambasting what he called the state’s “brute force tactics” and “blunderbuss approach” in pushing wind power.
“I won’t stand for being called a Nimby,” he said, criticizing the state’s Ocean Management Plan, which he said saw virtually no input from the Islands and would most directly affect and undercut the Vineyard’s ability to appeal development.
Particularly troubling to Mr. Knabel is a bill in the Massachusetts state legislature which remains in limbo after it failed to pass before the legislature recessed for the summer. The bill, the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act, seeks to streamline the permitting process for land-based turbines.
“It’s as bad a piece of legislation as I’ve seen in my 40 years of involvement with environmental and energy affairs,” Mr. Knabel said, claiming the law would allow developers to circumvent the traditional filters of zoning, cultural and environmental regulation.
The Dukes County Fishermen’s Association, which has filed a federal lawsuit over Cape Wind, was represented on Sunday night by Warren Doty and Buddy Vanderhoop.
Mr. Doty, who is also a Chilmark selectman, expressed his frustration with the state’s lack of communication with local fishermen. He had attended a hearing held by the Minerals Management Service on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for Cape Wind, and called the data collected by the state about local fisheries “extremely inadequate,” citing testimony from fellow fishermen.
“Greg Mayhew stood up at the hearing and said ‘My boat, The Unicorn, individually caught more fish on Horseshoe Shoal than you say exists in all of Massachusetts,’ ” Mr. Doty said.
He said Horseshoe Shoal remains extremely valuable as a fishing ground, supporting populations of squid, fluke, sea bass, scup, sea clams and conch among other species.
“The state and Cape Wind have told us that fishing is dead,” Mr. Doty said. “We don’t believe that. We think commercial fishing will continue and these are the areas where we want to fish.”
Mr. Vanderhoop was more strident in his appraisal of Cape Wind.
“It’s despicable to turn this place into an industrial park,” he said. “Why don’t you put the windmills off the Hamptons?” he added, drawing laughter.
Bettina Washington, historic preservation officer for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), framed the issue in even stronger language.
“We are under attack,” she said. “It’s not enough to say you’re from Martha’s Vineyard. You have to be willing to protect it.”
Ms. Washington related the Wampanoag creation story of Martha’s Vineyard of Moshup wading through Nantucket Sound, dragging his foot along the north shore of the Island. Cuttyhunk and Noman’s, areas south of the Island which have been approved for the construction of an additional 166 turbines, also hold a place in Wampanoag mythology and were ancestral lands that would be desecrated by the introduction of wind farms, she said.
“We are not against wind,” Ms. Washington said, in what was a familiar refrain of the evening, “But there’s not a balance. In our world we try to achieve a balance.”
Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker agreed with the call for a more balanced approach to energy.
“I’m all for diversification,” he said, “but this is not diversification, this is a big bet.”
Mr. Baker proposed buying hydropower from Quebec as Maine and Vermont have done, and questioned the wisdom of requiring that renewable energy be produced in Massachusetts under the 2008 Green Communities Act. He said that the Patrick administration’s insistence on wind power represented an environmental “big bet.” The two other candidates for governor, incumbent Deval Patrick and independent Tim Cahill were unable to attend the event, although Mr. Goldman read a statement prepared by the Cahill campaign denouncing Cape Wind.
James Pritchard of West Tisbury, the lone proponent of wind power who spoke, said the Mass Audubon Society studied Cape Wind for nine years and endorsed the project. Mr. Goldman said Mass Audubon was influenced by a close relationship with the administration.
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