Blowing smoke

Cape Wind objections groundless

Editorial, Worester Telegram, November 9, 2009

Let's see if we have this straight: The Wampanoag tribe is claiming the construction of the Cape Wind project would threaten or destroy their religion by impeding sacred rituals that require an unblocked view of the sunrise over Nantucket Sound. Would this be the same people whose Aquinnah tribe is proposing a wind turbine for the Gay Head cliffs on Martha's Vineyard?

The Wampanoags' attempt to have the federal government classify all of Nantucket Sound as a "traditional cultural property" is truly a stretch, but if successful could put an end to a lot more than Cape Wind. First proposed in 2001, Cape Wind has been fought at every turn - often by the same environmentalists who argue that wind power and other forms of renewable energy are vital to the planet's future. Apparently, such concerns are satisfied best when the turbines are in someone else's field of view.

On Thursday, the executive director of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Brona Simon, decided the Wampanoags' arguments merited further study - meaning yet another delay for the project.

The Wampanoags are also arguing that the tribe's ancient burial grounds lie in Horseshoe Shoals, beneath the waves and on the very spot where the Cape Wind turbines would be erected. Archaeologists have not been able to find any such evidence. Small wonder: Nantucket Sound hasn't been dry since the last Ice Age, which ended between 12,000 and 15,000 years ago. Establishing the truth of such fleeting claims is essentially impossible.

Thus, this latest delay is not merely a frivolous further delaying tactic, but holds potential to actively harm the causes of environmentally responsible development. A legal victory for the Wampanoags would place a dangerous new tool in the hands of all who seek to block development projects anywhere, anytime.

It is long past time for the Department of the Interior to clear away the final hurdles standing in the way of Cape Wind. There's only one way to determine whether Cape Wind can fulfill the promise of renewable wind power for the region: Build it and put it to the test.

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