Cape Cod Times: “Still much to do to protect Nantucket Sound”
By Audra Parker
For the last five decades, the people of Cape Cod and political leaders from the Statehouse to the White House have doggedly and successfully fought to protect our waters and our shores from inappropriate development. Still, one treasured area, Nantucket Sound, remains vulnerable.
In the 1960s, President John F. Kennedy had the foresight to create the Cape Cod National Seashore, stepping in to prevent a development boom that could have left pristine coastline scarred by a rush to build hotels, homes, marinas, restaurants and endless parking lots. Thanks to President Kennedy’s vision, nearly 60 years later Cape Cod is home to a national treasure: 40 miles of unspoiled Atlantic-facing seashore, including ponds, woods and beachfront available to visitors and residents alike in perpetuity.
Similarly, in the 1970s, the Massachusetts Legislature passed the Ocean Sanctuaries Act to protect most of the Massachusetts coastline from garbage-burning incinerator barges and the threat of gas and oil drilling in the middle of some of America’s richest fishing grounds. This act designated five ocean sanctuaries, including the Cape Cod Bay Ocean Sanctuary on the north side of the Cape, the Cape Cod Ocean Sanctuary along the National Seashore, and the Cape and Islands Ocean Sanctuary on the south side of the Cape, including Nantucket Sound.
Despite passage of this act, not all of the Sound has the protection so much of our shoreline enjoys. As the result of a 1986 Supreme Court ruling, the federal waters in the center of Nantucket Sound remain open to development today. This ruling upheld an earlier decision that states have jurisdiction over all submerged lands within a three-mile zone, while the U.S. owns the seabed more than three miles from shore. As such, the waters of Nantucket Sound extending three miles from the shoreline of the Cape, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard belong to the commonwealth and fall under the Ocean Sanctuaries Act, which prohibits large-scale development. But the center of the Sound — often referred to as the “hole in the doughnut” — is under federal control and is unprotected.
In 2001, Cape Wind saw their chance and sought to exploit these unprotected waters. This private developer proposed to build a massive industrial wind project squarely in the “hole in the doughnut” and eventually gained a long-term lease from the federal government to 46 square miles of seabed. Cape Wind has finally given up, but there are no protections to prevent a similar threat in the future. Our mission now is to ensure we are not waging this same battle again in 10 or 20 years – or even fighting renewed efforts for oil and gas exploration in the federal waters of the Sound.
As far back as 1981, in an editorial calling for more ocean protections, The Boston Globe bemoaned the fact that left unprotected was Nantucket Sound, a vast 160-mile area lying between Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Decades later, this pristine body of water remains vulnerable to development. Now is the time to make a lasting difference. With Cape Wind finally out of the picture, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound’s goal is to secure permanent protection for these waters to preclude industrial development and preserve traditional uses like fishing and recreation.
As Sen. John F. Kennedy wisely declared: “If we act sensibly now, while the opportunity remains, we shall have preserved for America and for our people a priceless heritage to be enjoyed many times over, not only by this generation, but by those which follow.”
— Audra Parker is president and CEO of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.
Reprinted via Cape Cod Times, which is not affiliated with the Alliance.