SOUTH YARMOUTH – Concerns are mounting over the proposed installation of a high-voltage transmission cable through Lewis Bay in West Yarmouth, which would connect offshore wind turbines proposed for south of Martha’s Vineyard with an electrical substation in Barnstable.
The Yarmouth Board of Selectmen voted unanimously last week to send a letter to Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton detailing concerns about the cable and asking that energy company Vineyard Wind be required to take certain precautions if the project moves forward.
Also at the meeting, Vineyard Wind withdrew its request for a community host agreement with Yarmouth, which would stipulate any protections or financial compensation the town would receive if the cable is built.
Erich Stephens, chief development officer for Vineyard Wind, told the Times he asked the selectmen to withdraw the host agreement request because of increasing worries from residents over possible environment impacts to Lewis Bay. He said Vineyard Wind intends to submit a new request after taking time to consider concerns.
“We were hearing about issues that need to be vetted further, and we thought everyone’s time would be better spent looking at those issues and meeting with residents to look at concerns,” Stephens said. “We’re hoping to move forward.”
Included in the board’s letter are requests that Vineyard Wind pay for several studies on how the cable installation could impact the health of Lewis Bay, its scallop fisheries, recreational and commercial boating, and area property values.
The letter also requests that Vineyard Wind be required to take a number of environmental and safety precautions, such as using only safe materials for construction, disclosing all materials used, funding a habitat restoration plan and possibly burying the cable deeper than proposed or providing a protective cable cover.
Selectman Erik Tolley said he’s heard from residents worried about chemicals that might be used as part of the project and the overall health of Lewis Bay.
“It’s considered very fragile and ever-changing,” he said of the bay.
The board has not taken a stance on the proposal and has no immediate plans to do so, Tolley said.
“At this point, the discussion is really dead in the water, as Vineyard Wind has withdrawn their request for consent to even consider an agreement,” he said. “It may come back in a couple months.”
Vineyard Wind is one of three developers seeking to build a utility-scale wind farm off Massachusetts. The project would be located about 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, and construction could begin in 2019.
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