Cape Cod Times – Editorial “Sound Thinking” February 9, 2018 –
Back in 2005, a wind power company known as Cape Wind received permission from the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board to proceed with a plan to build dozens of wind turbines in the heart of Nantucket Sound. It was the first of a series of legal hurdles that the owners of Cape Wind would have to jump over to transform their plan into a reality.
But the legal hurdles would prove to be only one of Cape Wind’s worries during its quixotic quest to set up windmills in the Sound. From the start, the effort sparked a passionate debate about a range of topics, from what it meant to be a true environmentalist to the intrinsic value of an unhampered view to who can actually own the waters that we all enjoy.
Now, nearly 15 later, a coalition of environmental groups, indigenous people, lawmakers, fishermen, and private businesses – many of which successfully opposed Cape Wind’s efforts – have again banded together to provide a definitive answer to this final question: That the waters of Nantucket Sound belong to no one and everyone, and that they should therefore be protected through a National Historic Landmark designation that would cover “the water body located between the mean low-water line that lies between the southern shore of Cape Cod, between Monomoy and Mashpee, and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket,” according to a letter penned by the region’s six state representatives late last year.
That was when the move toward a landmark designation truly began in earnest, a movement that has continued unabated since then. Their collective and bipartisan letter to the state’s two Democratic senators – Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren – as well as Democratic Congressman Bill Keating urged them to enact legislation that would lead to such an action, citing “historic, environmental, and economic” arguments in support of their request.
The lawmakers spell out the specific goal quite clearly: To prevent the development of any type of industrial activity, including oil drilling, mining and offshore wind farms. They do, however, allow for the installation of underwater cables that would link the mainland to any future wind farm, albeit one located outside of Nantucket Sound.
In fact, the move has garnered wide and bipartisan support, including from Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who in his letter to Markey, Warren and Keating, points out that the National Park Service declared in 2010 that Nantucket Sound was “eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.”
But perhaps the most impressive letter to the senators and the congressman came from the broad coalition of local interests who are also pushing this initiative. The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, which took on a prominent role in the effort to stop Cape Wind, has again lent its voice to the fight, arguing that the National Historic Landmark designation would essentially be the capstone in its fight to preserve this body of water. But the coalition also includes dozens if not hundreds of ordinary fishermen, birders, chamber of commerce members, town officials, and even wind power advocates, all of whom recognize that the value of Nantucket Sound lies in its pristine nature, and that the best way to ensure that it remains so in perpetuity is through a designation on the federal level.
We wish the proponents of this endeavor a strong wind at their backs, clear skies, and smooth sailing, and hope that it will not be too long before the president is signing legislation that officially recognizes what most of us have known for our entire lives: that Nantucket Sound is a natural and national treasure.