Cape Wind’s 10-year quest to build 130 440-foot wind turbines in Nantucket Sound has filled acres of newsprint, but Cape Cod Bay could also be the site of offshore wind projects under a draft plan soon to be before the Cape Cod Commission.
Massachusetts issued an Ocean Management Plan in 2010 that would permit 100 ocean-sited wind turbines statewide in state waters with 24 allocated to Cape Cod waters.
Cape Wind is proposed for federal waters in the middle of Nantucket Sound. The Cape Cod Commission is currently working up rules to govern any wind energy, sand and gravel mining or cable and pipeline projects in Cape waters. It issued a draft plan in January.
“As part of the process, the commission asked each town to appoint a representative from the board of selectmen to form a policy committee to review the information presented in the draft plan and they came up with recommendations and actions to protect resources within the district,” explained Heather McElroy, natural resource specialist with the commission.
That committee has revised the draft Ocean Management Plan and McElroy has been making the rounds to local boards presenting the results. She was in Brewster June 20 and, on June 22, the policy committee approved the wind energy recommendations. Rules for sand mining and cables and pipelines are pending and once they’re set, the full plan goes before the Cape Cod Commission and eventually the Assembly of Delegates for final approval.
Under the rules, almost all of Cape Cod Bay has been ruled out for potential wind farm sites, except for a small triangle about two miles off Brewster/Orleans/Eastham that could accommodate 25 turbines and a sliver off Sandwich that could hold 11.
Currently, the state has a moratorium on all ocean resource projects that will expire Aug. 3, and McElroy would like to have implementing regulations on the books by then.
“These are all state waters,” she noted, “from point-three nautical miles out to three nautical miles. The distances are different in the Bay. There is a Bay closure line from Race Point to Plymouth and in Nantucket Sound there are points that are three miles from rocks that are exposed.”
So while all of Cape Cod Bay, no matter how far from shore, is considered state waters, most of it would be unacceptable for wind energy. Much of the Bay is feeding habitat for the endangered North Atlantic right whale during the late winter. Other concerns there and in Nantucket Sound and off the Outer Cape included habitat used by fin and humpback whales, roseate, least, Arctic and common terns, long-tailed duck or nesting by other water birds.
Prime locations for commercial shellfish and finfish were also ruled out, as were boat traffic lanes, eel grass beds, or locations that are part of the Cape Cod Ocean Sanctuary.
That eliminated all but those two sites in Cape Cod Bay, as well as most of the area around Monomoy Island. There are other potential turbine sites off Plymouth that are not included under the cap of 24, and would be on the western end of Cape Cod Bay.
“We determined other types (of energy development) are not viable at this time, wave and tidal power are not viable,” McElroy said.
The site off Brewster, Orleans and Eastham looks to be about two miles off shore and Brewster natural resources director Chris Miller pointed out that it is near the Longstreet (the old target ship) and there may be unexploded ordnance in that location.
“Who has jurisdiction over the triangle off Brewster,” asked Selectman Dan Rabold. “Whom do they ask?”
“The jurisdiction questions are a little fuzzy for me still,” McElroy answered.
“The municipal boundaries extend to three nautical miles and a portion of that area is within three nautical miles, but the bulk is outside that area.”
Once the moratorium expires, McElroy expects it will be first come, first served for any developer who proposes a project.
The committee has spent less time on sand and gravel.
“We’re doing the best we can with the limited time we have,” McElroy said. “The plan will identify the need for beach nourishment and investigate the benefits of regional borrow pits; two or three could be permitted for the Cape community.”
The concern there is disturbing the benthic community, or shipwrecks.
In any case the commission plans to have a say on all projects.
“We anticipate adopting regulations and the Cape Cod Commission would regulate and review any project in those areas and apply these standards,” she said.
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