By Patrick Cassidy
“Cape Wind will be the United States' first offshore wind farm,” Salazar said in a room crowded with reporters and officials at the Statehouse in Boston.
Renewable energy advocates praised the decision as a milestone for the offshore wind energy industry. Opponents immediately decried it as political pandering and they threatened a new round of lawsuits to block the plan by Cape Wind Associates LLC to build 130 wind turbines in the Sound.
Objections have come from a well-funded opposition group, local Indian tribes and powerful politicians, including the late U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, whose Hyannisport family compound overlooks the Sound. But Salazar said he found the benefits of the project outweighed any potential negative effects.
The Mashpee Wampanoag and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) contend that the 440-foot-tall turbines will interfere with important sunrise ceremonies and damage ancestral burial grounds submerged beneath the Sound.
The state's top historic official and the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation have both argued against the project saying it would damage views from historic properties and potentially damage archeological sites.
Salazar said yesterday he deeply respected the Indian tribes' views. But in yesterday's documented response to the advisory council's recommendation that he reject Cape Wind, he said that he did “not fully embrace all of the views expressed by the Advisory Council,” including the contention that the review of historic impacts was “tentative, inconsistent and late.”
“While we strongly support renewable energy, and appreciate that Secretary Salazar will be reopening the government to government consultation, no amount of mitigation will change the fact that this is a site of great historical and cultural significance for our tribe, and is inappropriate for this project.”
The tribes have called the decision a “litmus test” for promises made by Obama's administration to American Indian tribes.
Cape Wind will be required to set aside a “substantial” amount of money for the purposes of addressing the tribe's concerns, Interior Deputy Secretary David Hayes said. The amount was not clear yesterday because the official record of the decision was not posted on the Interior website last night.
Both tribes have previously refused a $1 million offer by Cape Wind to secure their support.
By Gale Courey Toensing
Massachusetts’ Office of the State Historical Preservation Officer determined that the proposed Cape Wind site is a traditional cultural property and in early January, the National Park Service said Nantucket Sound is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places as a significant traditional, cultural, historic and archaeological property. In early April, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation issued a seven-page report of its findings and recommendation to deny permits to Cape Wind Associates.
Salazar said he understood and respected the views of the tribes and ACHP, but noted that as secretary of the Interior, he must balance broad, national public interest priorities in his decisions. “The need to preserve the environmental resources and rich cultural heritage of Nantucket Sound must be weighed in the balance with the importance of developing new renewable energy sources and strengthening our nation’s energy security while battling climate change and creating jobs.”
The Wampanoag Tribe and Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a grassroots environmental group, have promised to file suit against the federal government’s decision.
The Obama administration's record of choosing non-Indian interests over Indian interests when they're in conflict remains intact. When can we expect Obama to say yes to Indians and no to other Americans...ever?
For more on the subject, see Wampanoag Disputes Cape Wind Claim and Salazar Tours Cape Wind Site.
Below: "This simulation of the Cape Wind wind power factory in Nantucket Sound shows a view of the project from the Centerville bridge." (Photo courtesy Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound)