Radio Report 1/15/08

The impact areas categorized as negligible or minor include commercial fishing, tourism, marine mammals, air quality, coastal vegetation, air navigation, and benthic ecology. Rodney Cluck, Cape Wind project manager with the Minerals Management Service in Washington, says regulators looked to Europe's experience with offshore wind projects to determine Cape Wind's potential impact on tourism.

CLUCK: We looked at other studies in Europe. We looked at an additional information we could find in the United States, and was able to make a determination that we thought the impacts would be minor. There could be a small affect, but we didn't think it would actually impact the tourism industry in the area.

Impacts on birds were described as negligible to moderate. Impacts to shellfish and finfish during the operational phase of the project are expected to be minimal, says Cluck, however some fish eggs and larvae could be disturbed during construction.

CLUCK: Of course that is a temporary impact while you just doing the construction of the monopile themselves as well as the cables. During operations, we think it will be negligible. So we think the impacts will be short-term overall.

Cluck says recreational boaters will be able to navigate easily within the wind farm, and that the turbines will not get in the way of commercial fishing activities. The visual impact of the project from shore was deemed moderate.

REPORTER: And I?m wondering how did you come to that decision. I'm picturing, like, did you all sit in your office with visual simulations and be like 'well, is it minor, is it moderate?' How you'd come up with that one?
CLUCK: Well, with visual resources, they essentially are what they. You know, if you can see them, they were going to have a moderate impact just because you could see them.
REPORTER: And you studied the impacts of the project in state waters and lands, like the cable once it enters state waters, right?
CLUCK: Yes.
REPORTER: And what can you tell me about the cable's impact on eelgrass beds?
CLUCK: On eelgrass beds, overall the impacts for construction and operation are negligible to minor.
REPORTER: The DEIS was originally due out in January of 2007. I'm wondering what took so long, like what parts of the analysis were holding it up? And I'm also curious, was Cape Wind cooperative in responding to your requests and needs for data.
CLUCK: I'll start with the last one. Cape Wind was cooperative throughout the process. If we asked them for data, they were quite responsive. Why it took so long? It was just, this is the first [offshore] wind project that's ever been done in the United States. We really wanted to take an objective deliberative process. It simply took longer than we expected.

The report also evaluated 9 alternative sites for the project, located along the New England Coast. 7 of those sites were deemed unacceptable upon further analysis, and the 2 remaining possibilities were found to be economically inferior to Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound. Cape Wind Associates described the DEIS as a major step forward. The Alliance of the Protect Nantucket Sound says the report, quote, "misses the mark on key issues". The public has 60 days to comment on the report, although Cluck says the deadline for comment can be extended. A final permitting decision on the Cape Wind project could come as early as the end of this year.