Cape Cod Times: “Alliance seeks broader protection for Nantucket Sound”
By Mary Ann Bragg, Aug 7, 2018 –
HYANNIS—The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound is asking for Congress to help the organization accomplish its goals.
About 40 groups have signed a letter asking U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and U.S. Rep. William Keating, D-Mass., to sponsor legislation to make the Sound a national historic landmark for its “historic, environmental, cultural and tribal resources.”
“Our outreach is broad,” said Audra Parker, president and chief executive officer of the Hyannis-based nonprofit agency.
The legislation would also explicitly prohibit leases or permits authorizing energy generation projects in the Sound, with specific wording to protect commercial and recreational fishing and to protect transmission infrastructure used exclusively to connect offshore wind farms to mainland grids.
The Sound extends from the southern shores of Cape Cod to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, across state and federal waters. The Sound already is listed in the state’s Register of Historic Places for 11 towns on the Cape and Islands, according to state records.
“My personal opinion is that our community supports renewable energy sources for Nantucket and we are pleased with the development of wind farms southwest of the island,” said Jason Bridges, chairman of the Nantucket Select Board. Given that commercial wind farm leases are already are in place in that area, Bridges said he could support the alliance’s letter.
Otherwise, he said, “I do not think I would have voted in support of this letter that prohibits renewable energy projects in the Sound.”
But, protecting marine life and the Sound’s ecosystem should be a priority for everyone, Bridges said.
Offshore wind developers Vineyard Wind, Bay State Wind and Deepwater Wind hold leases for federal waters south and southwest of the Islands. Vineyard Wind has negotiated a contract with electricity distributors in Massachusetts to sell wind energy for a wholesale price of 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour levelized to 2017 dollars, a figure that accounts for all the costs over the lifetime of the project. The contract must still be approved by the state Department of Public Utilities.
The Nantucket Select Board voted unanimously to support the alliance letter, with no comment or discussion.
The area to be protected through legislation would include Horseshoe Shoal, where Cape Wind Associates previously had a lease to build a 130-turbine wind farm. The company never began construction and relinquished the lease in May, due in large part to strong opposition from the alliance.
In considering the letter, members of the Yarmouth Board of Selectmen asked about unintended consequences and how broadly the Sound was being defined but unanimously endorsed it and authorized the town administrator to express similar support to the Congressional delegation.
“I would say this is kind of a minimalist approach in terms of conservation,” Selectman Mark Forest said.
The national historic landmarks on Cape Cod are the Kennedy Compound in Hyannisport, the Louis Brandeis House in Chatham and the Nauset Archaeological District within the Cape Cod National Seashore in Eastham. The Jethro Coffin House and the Nantucket Historic District on Nantucket are national historic landmarks, as is Wesleyan Grove in Oak Bluffs.
In 2010, in the run-up to Cape Wind signing its lease, Nantucket Sound was determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as a “traditional cultural property.” This was based on the area’s association with the ancient and historic period of exploration by Native Americans and its association with the stories of Maushop and Squant/Squannit, according to the decision from the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places. The Sound is also integral to the Wampanoag way of life and a possible repository for cultural, historical and scientific information, according to the decision.
Today, that “eligible” designation from 2010 means that a Section 106 federal review is required for any federally funded, initiated or permitted project in the Sound, said Sarah Korjeff, historic preservation specialist with the Cape Cod Commission. The Section 106 review, part of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, requires federal agencies to consider the effects of projects they either carry out, approve or fund on historic properties, but the review does not mandate preservation.
In 2010, when the Cape Wind project was moving ahead, a Section 106 review led to a finding of adverse effects, but the project consultations were called off due to an inability to reach agreement. About a month later, the U.S. Department of the Interior approved the wind farm lease.
A Section 106 review would still be triggered with a national historic landmark, Korjeff said.
“Landmark designation, however, would be considered an acknowledgment of even greater national significance,” she said.
The designation of national historic landmarks is done exclusively by the National Historic Landmarks Program office of the National Park Service, according to Debra O’Malley of the Office of the Massachusetts Secretary of State.
“We are actively looking into this,” a spokeswoman for Keating’s office said.
— Reporter Kristen Young contributed to this story.
Reprinted via Cape Cod Times, which is not affiliated with the Alliance.