A proposal to allow the only commercial wind farms in state waters close to the western end of the Vineyard has been advanced without due consideration of the views of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), tribal historic preservation officer Bettina Washington said yesterday.
Under the draft ocean management plan released last week by the state, as many as 166 wind turbines might be built in two areas, around Noman’s Land and off Cuttyhunk, as near as three miles offshore.
Ms. Washington said the plan is a “real concern” because it would impinge on sites important to the cultural traditions of the tribe and impact the view from the Gay Head Cliffs.
“Everyone knows how important the Cliffs and that overlook are. And turbines off Cuttyhunk in particular — that will be really in your face,” she said.
“While I respect everybody’s opinion and the work they’ve put into this, it seems they didn’t really consider our views.”
She noted the draft plan, which included maps showing fishing grounds, endangered species habitat, shipping lanes and other data, included no map of traditional cultural and historic areas.
“They have all the other maps. I see all the other maps here. I ask: where’s the cultural map?
“They considered, for example, roseate tern habitat. I’m not saying the brother and sister animals are not important; they are. But it seems our concerns are not considered with the same seriousness.
“For us it’s a big concern and it should be for the whole Island,” she said.
Apart from the cultural and scenic issues, she said, there also are practical considerations. How would a wind farm be set up and maintained? What were the potential consequences of an oil spill?
She said the tribe would work on a formal response before the final plan was released at year’s end.
The ocean plan was prepared by a commission set up under the state’s new Oceans Act, passed last year, which sets out to provide the first comprehensive, science-based regime for the management of all of Massachusetts state waters, extending three miles out from shore. The two areas near the Vineyard were the only two places in the state earmarked for large scale wind generation.
Potentially, it could see as many as 166 wind turbines, each more than 400 feet tall and capable of generating 3.6 megawatts of electricity — enough, in total, to power some 200,000 homes.
The development would be about 25 per cent larger in numbers of turbines than the controversial Cape Wind project planned for federal waters in Nantucket Sound, which, after seven years, is still the subject of legal action from opponents.
While the latest proposal is outside the geographic scope of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, the major opposition group to Cape Wind, a spokesman for that organization said yesterday several of the same concerns pertained.
“The first common concern,” said Audra Parker, executive director of the Alliance, “is that this development, like Cape Wind, is taking control of development away from local communities.”
In both cases, the state sought to place ultimate responsibility for approvals with the state Energy Facilities Siting Board.
“So that should be a concern, regardless of the location.
“Secondly, President Obama in early June introduced a planning policy for national ocean use. It strikes me we’re still doing this in a very fragmented, piecemeal way. State and national planning need to be integrated.
“And you wonder what issues went into determining those two areas? Did they consider navigation, radar interference, tribal history and impact? It does not seem to have been a very complete process.”
Indeed, the process is not yet complete. The plan will be refined over the fall in a series of meetings and will receive further data. In particular, it will get more information on the fishing areas used by Vineyard fishers, and the routes they take to those grounds.
That information has been put together through a survey undertaken by Jo-Ann Taylor, the Vineyard’s representative on the Ocean Advisory Commission.
One longtime Island fisherman, Buddy Vanderhoop, said he is not much troubled by the plan.
“If they put [the turbines] right next to the Sow and Pigs [reef], off Cuttyhunk there, that would be great. It’s a very dangerous place; there’s a lot of current there,” he said, adding:
“And if they put them out four or five miles south of Noman’s that would be great too. But I wouldn’t like them in so close.
“But I do think that if they put them south of Noman’s they’re going to lose them. I’ve been in 40-foot seas down there.”
As yet, most people still are trying to process the information contained in the draft.
Tim Carroll, executive secretary to the Chilmark selectmen, said the proposal created a dilemma.
“I don’t know what they will discuss this week,” he said, “but I can tell you they have expressed opposition to the removal of local planning control.
“We’ve also been pro-alternative energy, and we’re trying to reserve views.
“So it’s difficult.”
His sentiments were echoed by Tom Wallace of Wallace and Co. real estate.
“Change is often very scary, particularly when you live in an idyllic place like this, which seems so far removed from the high-rises and freeways and so on.
“It’s a wonderful balancing act,” he said.
with permission, MV Gazette
By MIKE SECCOMBE