A wind farm off Cuttyhunk – one of only two places in the commonwealth designated for commercial wind development – is in the earliest stages of planning, although at this stage the details are being kept carefully under wraps.
At a public meeting held on the southernmost Elizabeth Island Friday afternoon the Gosnold wind committee, a subcommittee appointed by the selectmen in that town, met to announce that it was working to draft a memorandum of understanding with the state concerning efforts to develop wind turbines off Cuttyhunk’s southern shores.
At the meeting on Friday and in a telephone conversation with the Gazette later, Gosnold wind committee chairman Leo Roy said it would be inappropriate to distribute the preliminary draft as it was incomplete. He said significant changes would be made to the draft document before the wind committee’s next meeting in September.
“We got some really excellent input from the public,” Mr. Roy said on Monday afternoon, although he declined to discuss what that input was. He said minutes from Friday’s meeting would be completed later this week. Minutes from the committee’s first meeting were also unavailable.
The wind subcommittee, which consists of seven members appointed by town selectmen, was formed earlier this year in response to the state Oceans Management Plan released in the fall. That plan designated Cuttyhunk and Noman’s Land as the only areas in the commonwealth suitable for commercial wind development. The two areas have been designated for possible construction of up to 166 turbines. Mr. Roy said the committee has been in contact with the Massachusetts Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs in recent weeks.
In an e-mail message yesterday Lisa Capone, a spokesman for the state Office of Energy and Enviornmental Affairs, confirmed that a memorandum of understanding is on the drawing board between Gosnold and the state. “EEA did not participate in any meetings on Gosnold over the weekend, but we have been working with island officials on an MOU, the details of which we will share when it is final,” Ms. Capone said in the e-mail. “Our interest in developing this MOU is to memorialize the fact that Gosnold would be actively engaged in every step of any wind development proposed in its waters. However, the focus of our work currently is with the federal/state task force on development of wind power in offshore federal waters.”
Andrew Goldman, a Chilmark resident who is director of the community group POINT which has been critical of the state plan to develop wind turbines off the Vineyard, attended the Friday meeting on Cuttyhunk.
“For those who thought the residents of Gosnold were a monolith behind the state’s wind energy plans, this was an eye-opener,” Mr. Goldman said yesterday.
Mr. Goldman said that in discussions of the draft Mr. Roy said that the state had agreed to listen to and take into consideration the views of the people of Cuttyhunk, but that he heard nothing to indicate that the people of Gosnold would have the legal authority of a planning body like the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. Mr. Goldman reported that in the meeting Seymour DiMare of the Gosnold conservation commission echoed these concerns, saying that they were being denied rights Vineyarders had.
If Cuttyhunk is the first place for a wind farm to be sited, it comes as little surprise.
Last winter the Martha’s Vineyard Commission declared a one-year moratorium on wind development in an area around the Vineyard that includes Noman’s; the commission is using the one-year hiatus to develop rules and regulations for wind turbines through a district of critical planning concern (DCPC). Gosnold is the seventh town in Dukes County, but the commission’s jurisdiction over the Elizabeth Island chain has never been spelled out clearly or tested in court. And when the DCPC was on the table for discussion late last fall, the Gosnold selectmen wrote a letter to Ian Bowles, Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, making it clear that they did not want MVC oversight.
“While we don’t want to seem unneighborly, we would like to continue to manage our own affairs. For example, we do not have representation on the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, and do not want any commission making decisions for us,” selectman Malcolm Davidson wrote on behalf of the board.
The selectmen also pledged their cooperation in the development of wind turbines off Cuttyhunk – at least to a point.
“If our needs are met, we are willing to have a commercial wind project sited in our town waters,” the selectmen wrote. “We understand that, even though we are the smallest community in the commonwealth, we have a responsibility to be part of the solution to reducing carbon emissions. We understand the connection between our small actions and much larger consequences.”
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