Nantucket Sound Deemed Eligible For National Register Of Historic Places
By: Michael C. Bailey
Kenneth L. Salazar, US Secretary of the Interior, originally expected to issue a “record of decision” on the Cape Cod Wind Farm project last spring. Then he pushed a decision back to the end of 2009.
Now a decision could be issued on March 1 as Sec. Salazar has called for a meeting of the project’s “principal parties,” to be held next week in Washington D.C. in an effort to draft “a common-sense agreement” on how to mitigate the wind farm’s impact on Nantucket Sound’s cultural and historic value.
“After several years of review, it is now time to move the Cape Wind proposal to a final decision point,” Sec. Salazar said in a press release issued Monday. “I am hopeful that an agreement among the parties can be reached by March 1. If an agreement among the parties can’t be reached, I will be prepared to take the steps necessary to bring the permit process to conclusion. The public, the parties, and the permit applicants deserve certainty and resolution.”
Sec. Salazar’s issued his statement in response to an announcement issued earlier that day by the US National Park Service that Nantucket Sound was eligible for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) as a “traditional cultural property, and as an historic and archaeological property associated with and that has yielded and that has the potential to yield important information about the Native American exploration and settlement of Cape Cod and the Islands.”
The sound’s eligibility stems from formal challenges from the Mashpee and Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribes, which claimed that erecting 130 417-foot-tall turbines in Nantucket Sound would compromise its spiritual value; the turbines would be visible from shore and would therefore infringe upon tribal rites and customs involving the sound, the tribes said.
The US Minerals Management Service (MMS), the lead permitting agency for the project, agreed with that assessment in its January 2009 report, “Documentation of Section 106 - Finding of Adverse Effect.”
That 204-page report, prepared for the MMS for submission to the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) as part of its review of the project, stated, “The proposed project will have an adverse visual effect for the 25-year life of the project on 28 above-ground historic properties, and will impact the traditional religious and ceremonial practices of the Gay Head/Aquinnah and Mashpee Wampanoag Tribes, including visual intrusion into one specific sacred historical site identified to the MMS by the Tribes.”
Mark Rodgers, director of communications for Cape Wind, said media reports suggesting a NRHP designation would kill the project “badly mischaracterized the situation.”
“Nantucket Sound being listed as ‘eligible’ as a TCP (traditional cultural property) doesn’t change anything for Cape Wind,” Mr. Rodger said. “The tribes would have a long and drawn-out process ahead of them to actually get [the sound] listed as a TCP which if it ever happened would be long after Sec. Salazar making his decision, so Cape Wind would be unaffected even then.”
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