The failure of the Aquinnah and Mashpee Wampanoag Tribes to reach an agreement with the developers of a wind farm in Nantucket Sound to mitigate the project’s effect on historic properties has set the stage for what is expected to be the final public hearing on the project.

Ken Salazar, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, has said that he would make a decision on a permit before the end of April.

The latest development in Cape Wind Associates’ nine-year effort to place 130 wind turbines on Horseshoe Shoal comes as the Pocasset Wampanoag Tribe of Fall River, the leader of a tribal group not associated with either of the state’s two federally recognized tribes, dismissed tribal claims of religious ceremonies associated with Nantucket Sound and welcomed alternative energy projects.

On Monday, March 22, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) will hold a public meeting from 1 to 5 pm at the Tilden Auditorium at Cape Cod Community College in Barnstable, to address the historic preservation aspects of the proposed Cape Wind project.

The federal review process requires that federal agencies “take into account the effects of undertakings they sponsor, permit, or assist on historic properties.” The ACHP is responsible for promoting “the preservation, enhancement, and productive use” of historic resources, and advising the President and Congress on national historic preservation policy.

The agency has determined that Cape Wind would have an adverse effect on 34 historic properties bordering the sound, including two National Historic Landmarks (the Nantucket Historic District and the Kennedy Compound), 26 other historic structures or districts that are listed on or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, and six properties of religious and cultural significance to tribes, including Nantucket Sound itself, that have been determined eligible for the National Register, according to a press release.

Federal law requires Cape Wind to consult with Native American tribes as part of the permitting process. The elected leadership of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has cited tribal ceremonies associated with an unobstructed view of the sun as it rises over the Sound in their statements opposed to Cape Wind.

The Cape Wind 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. The projected maximum electric output would be 468 megawatts with an average of 183 MW.

At the two tribes’ insistence, in January, the National Park Service bolstered the Wampanoag opposition when it announced that Nantucket Sound is eligible to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places, due to its significance as a “traditional cultural property and as an historic and archeological property.”

On a visit to Horseshoe Shoal on February 2, Mr. Salazar urged the tribes and Cape Wind to try to reach an agreement that might allow the project to proceed, but he admitted he was not optimistic. “I’m not holding my breath for a consensus,” he told reporters.

The review process allows for parties to reach agreement on mitigation measures and sign a memorandum of agreement. Last month, the Aquinnah and Mashpee Wampanoag tribes rejected a Cape Wind offer of $1 million each, paid over 20 years, as part of a mitigation offer, according to published reports.

On March 1, Secretary Salazar terminated the process. “The time has come to bring the reviews and analysis of the Cape Wind Project to a conclusion,” he said. “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┬áCape 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.”

The ACHP must forward its recommendations on historic preservation issues related to Cape Wind by April 14. Mr. Salazar has promised to make a final decision before the end of April.

In a press release issued following Mr. Salazar’s announcement of his approach to deciding the question, Bettina Washington, Aquinnah Wampanoag historic preservation officer, said it was expected. “We don’t have an alternative option – the Nantucket Shoal is one of a kind Traditional Cultural Property,” she said. “On the other hand, the proponent is choosing not to move the project when there are other viable locations for an industrial park wind farm.” Ms. Washington said the tribe looked forward “to working with the ACHP on identifying and rectifying the shortcomings of the tribal consultation process.”

Royal objection

Into the Cape Wind fray last week jumped the Pocasset Wampanoag Tribe, a Fall River based group that claim to be descendents of the royal family of the Wampanoag nation.

In a letter dated March 3 addressed to Mr. Salazar and ACHP executive director John M. Fowler, George Spring Buffalo, chairman, said that Cape Wind reflected his tribe’s values.

“Harnessing wind for the purpose of producing clean energy for the economic and environmental betterment of our society is consistent with our cultural values and our vision for future economic development,” Mr. Buffalo said.

He welcomed future collaboration “with corporate, governmental and labor organizations on future alternative energy projects.”

Mr. Buffalo also took issue with his fellow tribal leaders over claims of religious significance. “We understand that two tribes in Massachusetts have made claims that the Cape Wind project would conflict with certain religious ceremonies they perform. We have asked our elders and they do not know of and have never witnessed a daily ceremony on the waters of Nantucket,” he wrote.

Mr. Buffalo cited his tribe’s lineage. “Historically, the Royal Family from Benjamin Tuspaquin to King Philip ruled over the Wampanoag Nation … All Massachusetts tribes are members of the Wampanoag Nation. On behalf of the Royal Family of the Wampanoag Nation, we challenge any claims made by other members of our nation against the Cape Wind Project. We request that you consider the comments made to be the opinions of the individuals who made them and not that of the Nation.”

In an emailed response to a question from The Times, Mark Rodgers, a spokesman for Cape Wind, said that the developer has no financial connection to the tribe or Mr. Buffalo.

The Pocasset letter is only the latest piece in continuing tribal intrigue associated with tribal objections to Cape Wind.

In a February 9 letter sent to Mr. Salazar, Jeffrey Madison, a member of the Aquinnah Wampanoag, wrote, said talk of a sunrise ceremony was a fabrication, “invented by a small number of tribal members who happen to be involved in tribal government and who happen to be opponents of Cape Wind who wish to derail the project.”

A former tribal council member and the son and grandson of lifelong medicine men of the tribe, Mr. Madison is a lawyer with the law firm of Wynn and Wynn. Cape Wind hired that Hyannis-based firm last month to assist in its push to overcome opposition to a wind farm and negotiate with the tribes.

In comments emailed to The Times in connection with publication of Mr. Madison’s comments, Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, Aquinnah Wampanoag chairman, said it was unfortunate that a few tribal members chose to go outside the tribe’s process and did not ask about traditional and cultural practices with which they may not be familiar.

In response to the letter from the Pocasset tribe, Ms. Maltais emphasized that the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head was the first federally recognized tribal nation in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and early on in the Cape Wind process represented Wampanoag interests until the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe joined in the discussion once they too had received federal recognition.

Ms. Maltais said that federal recognition provides for an exclusive government-to-government relationship and standing with state and federal agencies. “Through the Tribal Historic Preservation Office, we are the duly recognized authority to speak on behalf of our Tribe and Nation with regard to traditional and cultural issues,” she wrote. “We are afforded this authority through our government, which is acknowledged by the United States Government.”

It was a matter of law, not lineage, Ms. Maltais said. “We cannot speak to anyone else’s perception, understanding, or assertions,” she said. “All we know is that the Mashpee and Aquinnah Wampanoag are recognized and expected to address these cultural concerns with the agencies of the United States of America.”

Public comment

Due to the high level of public interest, priority for speaking at the public meeting will be given to those who notify the ACHP of their desire to speak in advance of the meeting, according to a press release.

The ACHP advised, “Please provide the name and the organization the speaker officially represents, if any. Send e-mails to: capewindsection106@achp.gov, or fax information to 202-606-5072. Speakers will be taken in order of registration and given prescribed time limits. People who have not preregistered will be allowed to speak as time permits.”

Written comments submitted by 5 pm on March 29 will be part of the public record and reviewed by the ACHP prior to the transmittal of its formal comments.

by Nelson Sigelman