MMS Hearing in Yarmouth

listenPirates and Miners

By Sean Corcoran

It was a full house at the Mattacheese Middle School in Yarmouth last night, where the federal Minerals Management Service held a public hearing to discuss its draft environmental impact statement on a proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound.

Officials from the Minerals Management Service were welcomed to their first public hearing on the Cape and Islands with signs, songs and even a group of people dressed as pirates and shouting their opposition to the project.

But once the hearing was underway inside the school, the crowd of nearly a thousand people was mostly respectful and subdued as they commented on a developers plan to install 130 wind turbines on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound.

57-year-old Steven Tucker of Barnstable rose to support Cape Wind, saying he's lived almost his entire on Cape Cod, spending much of his time as a contractor traveling between the Cape and Nantucket. But the past seven years have been agonizing, he said, as the project has been publicly debated, and in his view, not always truthfully.

Tucker: "I firmly believe this project to be in the right place and long overdue. The residents of CC have been too long subjected to the tall tales of woe and destruction by the well-funded opponents. The air we breath, the waters we drink and swim in, the fish, the farm products we eat are polluted, and are becoming much more so each and every day. Cape Wind is an opportunity for our community to start to reverse this catastrophic environmental disaster we are bequeathing to our children and our grandchildren to suffer."

Nearly all of the people who took to the microphone were either politicians or members of organized groups opposing or supporting the project. In his remarks, Cape and Islands' District Attorney Michael O'Keefe asked MMS officials to study whether the wind farm would be a hazard to boats and airplanes.

O'Keefe "I can't help but think, despite whatever studies there may have been generated by the proponents of this project to the contrary, that putting as many of these items as is being suggested, at the height of 140 feet, in waters that are so close to the islands of Nantucket and MV, as well as the coast of Massachusetts, is asking that they be run into by either a plane or a boat. It seems to me that that has not been given its full weight."

Overall, proponents of the project stressed the need for clean energy in the United States, and depicted opponents as a group motivated largely by a desire to retain unspoiled views of Nantucket Sound.

On the other side, many of those against Cape Wind said they support alternative energy projects, but this one would be poorly located. Added to the mix were several speakers from Kentucky and West Virginia, who told emotional stories about how strip mining for coal is destroying their states, and they pleaded with Cape Codders to end their opposition to the renewable energy project.

The MMS will hold another hearing tonight on Nantucket, followed by a hearings on Martha's Vineyard and then in Boston on Thursday. The public comment period ends April 21, and MMS final environmental impact statement is expected to be released in the fall.