Monday, January 04, 2010

Forget Going Green, We've Got Cultural Sensibilities to Worry About

For years now we've been inundated with the mantra of going green, but curiously many in Massachusetts have vociferously opposed the construction of wind farms in Nantucket Sound. Unable to come up with legitimate reasons to oppose the turbines, the anointed ones have come up with one of the more absurd rulings in memory.
The National Park Service has determined that Nantucket Sound is eligible for listing on the Register of National Historic Places because of its significance to Native Americans, dealing one of the most severe setbacks to the Cape Wind energy project in its nine years of regulatory review.

The highly unusual move does not place the 564-square-mile Sound on the Register, which affords heightened protection against development and is traditionally reserved for defined places, such as historical homes or known boundaries of ancient homes or graveyards. But it does start a process, which in many cases takes a year or more, to determine whether the property should be listed.

But within minutes of the announcement this afternoon, US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar summoned the principal parties in the long-running dispute to a meeting next week to come up with a "common-sense agreement" by March 1 on ways to minimize the project's impact on the Sound's cultural and historic value. Barring an agreement, he said in a statement, "I will be prepared to take the steps necessary to bring the permit process to conclusion."
Translation: Kiss the wind farms goodbye, along with cheaper energy on Cape Cod. Sorry, suckers.

So what exactly is the cultural value?
The Wampanoag tribes of Aquinnah and Mashpee have said for several years that the proposed 130-turbine project in Nantucket Sound would disturb their spiritual sun greetings and submerged ancestral burying grounds. While the federal agency in charge of issuing permits for the wind farm had said the Sound was not eligible to be listed, the Massachusetts Historic Preservation Officer had decided otherwise, leaving the matter in the hands of the Park Service.

The National Park Service was widely expected to dismiss the Sound as ineligible for listing on the Historic Register because there was no specific property associated with the determination and the service itself says it discourages the nomination of natural bodies of water. Yet, in a seven-page explanation of its determination, service officials said Nantucket Sound was unusual because it was once dry land before being slowly covered with water after the last ice age, and it was clear that Native Americans had lived there.
So because perhaps thousand of years ago some "natives" may have lived in what is now part of the Atlantic ocean, then progress must be halted.


Mere here.
The Wampanoag -- the tribe that welcomed the Pilgrims in the 17th century and is known as "the people of the first light" -- practice sacred rituals requiring an unblocked view of the sunrise. That view won't exist if the Cape Wind project's turbines, each over 400 feet tall, are built several miles from the Cape Cod shore. The turbines would be visible to Wampanoag in Mashpee and on Martha's Vineyard.

Tribal rituals, including dancing and chanting, take place at secret sacred sites around the sound at various times, such as the summer and winter solstices and when an elder passes.

The designation could add months to the approval process by forcing developers to comply with the designation's standards.

The decision is the latest twist in the long, bitter public fight over plans to build 130 wind turbines across a 25-square-mile swath of federal waters.

Cape Wind opponents say it would be a hazard to aviation, harm the environment including fish and bird life and mar historic vistas. The late Sen. Edward Kennedy, whose family compound would be in view of the project, fought the project until his death last summer, saying it was a triumph of special interests over state interests.
No statement so far from the Cape Wind folks.

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