"Clean energy" and cultural values are colliding not far from Cape Cod National Seashore in Nantucket Sound, where a proposal to erect a wind farm was handed a potential setback Monday when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar pointed to a determination that the Sound is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
The secretary issued a statement regarding the proposed wind farm after a determination by the National Park Service’s Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places that Nantucket Sound is eligible for listing because of its significant archeological, historic, and cultural values. Those values, he said, must be considered in the Minerals Management Service's review process regarding a permit for the Cape Wind project proposed to be built in Horseshoe Shoals.
“America’s vast offshore wind resources offer exciting potential for our clean energy economy and for our nation’s efforts to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said the secretary. “But as we begin to develop these resources, we must ensure that we are doing so in the right way and in the right places. The Keeper’s finding that Nantucket Sound is eligible for listing in the National Register provides information that will help us to undertake final consultations and analysis of potential impacts of wind development on historic and cultural resources in Nantucket Sound.
“After several years of review, it is now time to move the Cape Wind proposal to a final decision point. That is why I am gathering the principal parties together next week to consider the findings of the Keeper and to discuss how we might find a common-sense agreement on actions that could be taken to minimize and mitigate Cape Wind’s potential impacts on historic and cultural resources. I am hopeful that an agreement among the parties can be reached by March 1. If an agreement among the parties can’t be reached, I will be prepared to take the steps necessary to bring the permit process to conclusion. The public, the parties, and the permit applicants deserve certainty and resolution.”
The Mashpee and Aquinnah Wampanoag tribes, the "People of the First Light," had sought the listing determination, arguing that the proposed wind farm would impact sacred rituals they conduct on the Sound by obscuring the sunrise. The tribes also have contended the project would impact submerged tribal burial grounds. Others object to the project because they believe it would blight the viewshed and create environmental and navigational impacts.
The company behind the project says that if built the "130 wind turbines will gracefully harness the wind to produce up to 420 megawatts of clean, renewable energy. In average winds, Cape Wind will provide three quarters of the Cape and Islands electricity needs."
While Secretary Salazar acknowledged the energy potential held in the winds that blow across the Sound, he also urged caution in permitting the project.