Interior Secretary Salazar To Handle "Cape Wind" Decision Himself

With negotiations on how best to handle the "Cape Wind" wind farm project proposed for Nantucket Sound apparently deadlocked, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has decided to make a decision on the project himself.

Secretary Salazar on Monday notified the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation that the parties to the consultations did not reach agreement on mitigation actions for the proposed wind turbine farm in federal waters of Nantucket Sound. The council has 45 days to provide an opportunity for the consulting parties and the public to offer their views. The Advisory Council will then provide its comments to the secretary, who will take those comments into consideration before deciding whether to approve the project.

“The time has come to bring the reviews and analysis of the Cape Wind Project to a conclusion,” Secretary Salazar said in a prepared statement. “It is clear to me that the consulting parties are not able to bridge their divides and reach agreement on actions to minimize and mitigate the Cape Wind Project’s effects on historic and cultural resources. I am asking the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation for their comments and I will then make a final decision on the proposal. The parties, the public, and the permit applicants deserve resolution and certainty.”

Back in January the National Park Service’s Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places determined that the sound was eligible for listing on the register because for of its significant archeological, historic, and cultural values. Those values, Secretary Salazar 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.

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.

Cape Wind Associates, LLC has proposed to construct and operate a commercial wind energy facility on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore of Massachusetts. The project calls for 130 turbines of 3.6 megawatts, each with a maximum blade height of 440 feet, to be arranged in a grid pattern in 25 square miles of Nantucket Sound in federal waters off Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket Island. The projected maximum electric output would be 468 megawatts (average of 183 MW) and serve communities in the Nantucket Sound area.

On Monday the Interior secretary cited Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, which requires federal agencies to take into account the effects of a proposed project on historic properties and determine through the consultation process whether agreement can be reached on minimizing or mitigating any adverse effects of the proposed project. Parties may reach agreement on mitigation measures and sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) detailing agreed-upon actions, or may terminate the consultation under Section 106 if one of them determines that further consultation would not be productive. The parties to a potential MOA – the Minerals Management Service, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Massachusetts State Historic Preservation Officer and Cape Wind LLC – have been meeting since July 2008 to consider effected sites and since June 2009 to consider potential measures to mitigate adverse impacts on identified historic and cultural resources in and around Nantucket, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Sound.

During a meeting on January 13, 2010 with the various consulting parties in Washington, D.C., the secretary set a March 1 deadline for determining whether it was possible to reach agreement on acceptable mitigation measures for the project. Mr. Salazar then traveled to Massachusetts on February 2 to continue the 106 consultation process, meeting with the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and visiting several of the tribal cultural sites, as well as viewing the proposed project site in Nantucket Sound.

Review of the Cape Wind project began in 2001 when Cape Wind Associates, LLC applied for a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to construct an offshore wind power facility on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound, offshore of Massachusetts. Over the next three years, the Corps completed a Draft Environmental Impact Statement along with a separate review and issuance of a permit to construct a meteorological tower for data collection purposes.

After the adoption of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Department of the Interior was given authority for offshore wind projects, including the Cape Wind application, and since that time has completed an Environmental Impact Statement and conducted eight official National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 meetings in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. This is in addition to many other discussions with tribal officials, state officials, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and other consulting parties, as well as official public commenting periods conducted during the environmental review and Section 106 consultation process. Over the course of the Cape Wind project review process, the MMS collected and analyzed approximately 75,000 public comments.

Comments

I seriously doubt he will be able to make this decision "by himself". Whether pro or con, I have been led to believe that the current Administration would never allow that to happen.

You're so cynical, Dottie!;-)

And really, shouldn't you have written, "I have been led to believe that NO administration would allow that to happen"?

I wonder what this bodes for the determination of the reservation of use extension for the Drakes Bay Oyster Company at Point Reyes National Seashore. The rider attached to the DOI appropriations bill specifically authorizes him to handle it, although I haven't heard whether or not he was going to delegate that to NPS management. This sounds like Sec Salazar is prepared to let his own office handle some of the dirty work rather than just pass the buck.

Cynical? About the truth? And whether I say "current" or "no", it means the article is a lie. I seriously doubt he, and only he, will decide the final outcome. I don't care what party or what president is in power at the time, that would never happen, so yes, "NO" would be more appropriate in the end.

Aren't you taking one word - "himself" - and calling it a lie without getting the nuance of that that entails.

It sounds to me as if Sec Salazar has decided that he will be the final arbiter of this decision. It also sounds like there still will be assorted lobbying going on from both sides. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets calls from members of Congress or people in the White House trying to influence his decision. Is it a "lie" to say that it's his call? I don't really think so. That doesn't mean he can't be influenced or persuaded or that the final outcome will be the result of only one person.

Are you kidding me? You had NO CHOICE!

Salazar had the decision made about Cape Wind before consultations began. He is ... was...only going through the motions.

What Salazar wants he gets, no matter state or public comments. The meeting with the Governors was a farce. Only a judge could overturn Salazar. Possibly.

Obama? Salazar is Commander-in-Chief of the Department of the Interior (DOI). Obama keeps hands off. Even Congressional Committees are intimidated by this man. The DOI is like a nation unto itself with its own rules. Salazar "talks the talk" only, and he is very good at it. Manipulations. And blatant lies...only one does not find out until after the fact...if they ever do.

You all have been dupped to think you had any input, a say in the wind farms. And I say this most respectfully to all.