What a Waste

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The following letter was sent to the state office of Costal Zone Management.

I was shocked to learn that the state considers Martha’s Vineyard to be an appropriate site for offshore massive wind turbines. The same state recognizes the value of protecting the Cape Cod National Seashore, understanding that people will be disinclined to sit on its beaches within sight of an industrial turbine plant, peppered with 40-story-high steel structures, with lights and massive steel blades, hardly conducive to enjoying the natural ocean views.

So why do you not recognize Martha’s Vineyard as an equal treasure for all of the people?

Why do you ignore the fact that Noman’s Land is a federally protected wildlife refuge and choose instead to exploit our nearshore waters? Why did you recognize the value of protection for Martha’s Vineyard by establishing by law the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, only to say now you can overturn its jurisdiction to protect this Island whenever you decide it is to be exploited instead?

Martha’s Vineyard is world renowned for its natural beauty, and the essence of that is its wild and natural offshore waters. Incredibly, you choose this site to place hundreds of man-made, skyscraper-high turbines with a sight distance of 26 miles, to be seen all the way across the south shore to Edgartown and around the west and north to Menemsha and beyond. So federal and state plans now include turbines off our northeast shores in Nantucket Sound, west and south, to be expanded whenever you choose to do so. Historical and cultural sites are to be ignored as are the Gay Head Cliffs, a geological treasure known worldwide.

How can you choose to blight one of, if not the most beautiful area, on the East Coast when I am sure you can find windy areas which are already industrial and closer to the mainland? And what about less intrusive technologies to be explored such as wave technology, already being studied by Edgartown and Nantucket? Deep water technology is available also.

Our economy and our livelihoods are nurtured by our natural surroundings, not to mention our souls.

And for what will you destroy that? Wind power cannot as yet even be stored, so no electric plants will either shut down or slow down. What a huge waste of a splendid natural resource!

Beverly L. Burke

Oak Bluffs

Clear Vision

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The community of Martha’s Vineyard demonstrates clear vision and prudence when it comes to home rule. Your challenge of the Patrick administration’s overreaching authority over your resources by the Oceans Advisory Commission, and by the Energy Facilities Siting Board, is merited and warranted. The Patrick administration’s inability to serve the interests of Martha’s Vineyard residents with respect to ocean management is punctuated by the Patrick and Murray appointment of “energy efficiency and renewable energy” advisor Paul Gaynor, president and chief executive officer, First Wind.

Barbara Durkin


More Harm Than Good

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Responding to the reader comment on the Gazette Web site from Real Yankee, Rob, Thinker; if I read you correctly, I should be blaming the rich for many of our ills.

And what events have led some to believe the MVC is a mere tool for wealthy Vineyarders to have their own way? The last time I looked it was the MVC that helped stop the golf course in Oak Bluffs, among other important decisions that have benefited all of us regular types.

Unabated, environment-crushing development of the kind being prepared by proponents of massive wind farms will, in the final analysis, do much more harm than good (now you’re thinking).

We are rushing forward with a flavor of the month technology that is at best only fairly efficient and cost effective. Once these farms go up, we are stuck with them forever. On the other hand wind farms do generate one thing in huge abundance: money for the developers and apparently cash support for certain politicians up in Boston.

Chip Coblyn

Oak Bluffs

In Our Backyard

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

There is much controversy about installing large wind turbines in Vineyard waters. For many people, the primary issue is their appearance. They believe turbines are ugly. One speaker at last Wednesday’s oceans management plan hearing bluntly stated, “not in my back yard.”

While the visual impact of turbines deserves consideration, we need to carefully examine other issues as well, for they too affect our lives.

Fossil-fueled power plants release CO2, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. President Obama told the United Nations last week: “Our generation’s response to this challenge will be judged by history, for if we fail to meet it, boldly, swiftly, and together, we risk consigning future generations to an irreversible catastrophe.”

Fossil-fueled power plants release sulfur, mercury and other dangerous elements. Nuclear plants release radioactive elements. All cause an assortment of ailments, including asthma, brain damage and cancer.

We need to replace old plants with new ones that are safe, reliable, and affordable.

Uranium, oil and natural gas are nonrenewable fuels. They’re largely found in foreign countries and are being depleted. As supplies diminish, their prices rise. This causes electricity prices to rise. In contrast, the renewable “fuels” — sunlight, wind, moving water, geothermal heat and biomass — are forever available and free. Wind turbines need an average wind speed of at least 12 mph. Most of Massachusetts doesn’t have this average, but the Cape and Islands do.

Much of the coal we gather involves destroying mountains and dumping wastes into streams and lakes. Most of the oil we burn comes from foreign countries, paid for with dollars and lives. The nuclear fuel cycle scatters radioactive wastes around strip mines, processing plants, and storage pools. Wastes remain dangerous for hundreds of years.

Fossil-fueled power plants can be cut up and recycled. So can wind turbines and other renewable devices. But nuclear plants become radioactive, so must be left in place, sealed, and guarded for decades.

Fish and birds, like humans, are killed and sickened by the emissions and spills from fossil and nuclear-fueled power plants. Wind turbines can kill and injure creatures, but the number is not well established.

Property and home values tend to be lower when they’re near power plants, strip mines, smog and waste-processing plants. Feelings are mixed about the appearance of wind turbines, so their impact on real estate values is unknown. Some people claim that initial concerns fade once turbines have been operating for a few months.

Power plants, strip mines, smog, and waste-processing plants are not known to attract tourists. Some European experts claim that turbines do.

Costs for conventional hydro-electric, on-shore wind and geothermal energy are roughly one-third those for nuclear, while biomass and small-scale hydro-electric come in at half the cost. Higher costs are projected for offshore wind, ocean wave and solar, but again, all are less expensive than nuclear.

Many people are employed when a new power plant (of any type) is designed, refined, constructed, operated, serviced, and decommissioned.

Fossil and renewable power plants typically take around five years to permit and construct. Nuclear plants take 10 to 20 years. Experts claim that we must act fast to halt runaway climate change.

Some people claim that power plants are a visual burden to their host community, thus the community should be compensated (possibly with reduced electricity rates). But we can do no better than guess about the extent of the burden. What if it turns out that the majority of residents decide that the power plants, especially wind turbines, are attractive, a source of pride, and are increasing tourism? Should the residents then decline previously negotiated compensation?

I encourage every one of us to carefully ponder all of these important issues. And when we’re asked to vote for or against constructing large wind turbines in our backyard [waters], I hope we’ll vote to approve them.

Chris Fried

Vineyard Haven

Revised Plan Needed

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The following letter was sent to the Oceans Act Plan Advisory Commission.

We know we have wind here on more days than we have sun. We are lucky on the Vineyard to have this resource. And we are lucky to have such a sophisticated and committed array of people willing to address the challenges of global warming, declining water quality and biodiversity, as well as the decline in socioeconomic and cultural diversity. The Vineyard is a microcosm. We are parochial and progressive. This is part of our charm and our power.

More than 35 years ago, the state recognized the value of the unique natural, cultural and economic resources of Martha’s Vineyard, and created the most effective and powerful regional regulatory agency in the state, and probably in the country. It created the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. The commission has the power to review a development project based on not only quantitative impacts — but on qualitative impacts. This means that a project can be denied because it does not fit in with the character of the site. This has served to slow down the suburbanization of this beautiful place.

That said, we all remember the unfair and ineffective review process for the Cape Wind Project proposed in the federal waters of Nantucket Sound several years ago. In my mind, this is what inspired the creation of the Oceans Act and this subsequent draft plan. I was pretty excited and relieved as it was sponsored by our state Sen. Robert O’Leary and Mass Audubon. My understanding was that the act would create a dynamic review and permitting process to determine where, with respect to wind turbines, the industrialization of state waters was best suited. I am dismayed that this is not the case. Now I hope the Oceans Act plan advisory commission and others working on this draft plan will consider the following:

• All areas for commercial scale wind projects must be made provisional. Clearly, there is no place that has no value. The concern for me is that the only two commercial sites within the three-mile boundary of hundreds of miles of state waters are off the western end of Martha’s Vineyard, the wild end of the Island. One is off Noman’s Land, a federal wildlife sanctuary, and the other is off Cuttyhunk island, across from national historic landmarks, the Gay Head Cliffs and the Gay Head Light. The scale of commercial wind development — up to 166 turbines — in these areas will have a negative impact on wildlife resources in general, and on important natural, cultural, recreational and commercial resources of the towns of Aquinnah, Chilmark and Gosnold, and on our local Island economies.

• The Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) should not be able to trump regional planning commissions. A coordinated and comprehensive set of regulations, performance standards, impact analysis, definitions, etc. must be in place so that the democratic process is protected. The EFSB must be adapted to meet the mandates of the Oceans Act, which was enacted in part to protect our critical resources.

• The Oceans Plan should incorporate regulatory mechanisms to protect qualitative impacts, from views and vistas to cultural and, particularly in the case of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), spiritual qualities.

• Avian surveys and other wildlife surveys must be generated before large-scale sites are designated. It is likely that large scale wind turbines would have a negative impact on migratory birds, as well as on resident raptors and terns. After talking with state and federal officials, I understand that data collection so far has been based largely (solely, some say) on marine species, and only on current surveys and data. A more holistic approach which recognizes the interdependency of species is needed.

• A mechanism to assess impacts must be in the plan. Performance standards must be in place to determine when failure to effectively mitigate the negative impacts of the development proposal outweighs the benefits of the project.

• Coordination must be enhanced. The plan should facilitate, not thwart. For example, in the draft plan, Nantucket, among other communities, can have no offshore commercial wind facilities. This is inconsistent with their planning efforts. On the other hand, Rhode Island is planning a commercial-scale wind facility in federal waters, close to our Island. And the Cape Wind Project is expected to be permitted soon. How many commercial wind farms can we handle? Is the goal to plug in Manhattan or just New Bedford? Local, regional, state, interstate and federal coordination and communication is key.

We cannot allow competition and profit to overwhelm the goals of our common efforts and interests. We don’t want to create another 40B — an economic engine disguised as resource management and protection.

There is no doubt that the Vineyard has a proactive alternative energy movement. This must be formally recognized by the state so the Vineyard’s ongoing plan to achieve energy independence and efficiency, while protecting the other important values that define the Island, is not ignored and put on a shelf to gather dust because the Oceans Act Plan takes precedence. The best hope is that all of this will be moot, and we all can feel lucky because floating turbines, set far out in the ocean, beyond state waters, are already on the market.

Megan Ottens-Sargent


Wakeup Call

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

It started with an idea. One developer, sitting on his back porch on the mainland thought of an idea to generate energy and profits from a wind development in the ocean. It happened that it was our ocean and right off the shores of a scenic and unspoiled place we call home. So he lobbied the governor and we now have before us the Oceans Management Plan.

This plan is one that strikes me as shortsighted and narrow-minded. The cost to all who live, love and cherish the Vineyard is beyond anything that can be mitigated. We do not put a price on our waters, our unspoiled views, on the clarity of the night skies, on our sunsets. It was audacious to hear the developer suggest that he wanted us, the Vineyard community, to benefit financially from the industrialization and mass desecration of our most pristine asset. This is a clear situation of the government rushing to create corporate opportunities at the expense of and with little regard for the public. To me it seems as if the tail is wagging the dog.

Why, if this plan is supposed to be comprehensive, does it not take into account newer technology, wave technology and other forms of energy generation that could have lass impact? Why is the only place for these towers off our shore? The answer is simple. It was written to be project specific and address the concerns and issues that would arise only to get the current proposed project approved. It is quick and easier.

As I testified at the meeting, there are many unintended consequences of this act which I labeled collateral damages. Already, I had a real estate client walk away from a purchase of a home with glorious views that would take into account much of the proposed 160 wind towers. In his words he called it “government and industrial disrespect and insensitivity.” There is no doubt that the value of real estate here would be impacted by this project. What people flock to the Vineyard for, what make us special in so many ways, what assessors use as a gauge to generate tax revenues would be compromised. How much, how bad is all a matter of perspective. The Vineyard has worked hard through the MVC to preserve and promote intelligent and sensitive development. The natural scenic beauty of this Island is paramount to why people come here to vacation and to live. At 450 feet tall it is possible that the towers would loom ominously high in the water view of every property owner looking to the south and west from West Tisbury to Edgartown. Why has there been so little heard from this vast population of potentially affected people? Perhaps it’s the speed with which this bill is attempting to be passed.

Another unintended consequence would be from the 30 years of bombs accumulating underwater off the shores of Noman’s Land and the possible toxic plumes we’d be contending with when underwater drilling and pile driving wreaks havoc on the purity of our waters and our beaches. If the undersea floor of Noman’s was aboveground you can bet it would be declared a Superfund site, but I’ll leave this issue to those who know more about toxics than I.

It started with an idea. Ideas are cheap and easy but the consequences of an idea can be dire and last a long time. Wind power is important — yes, but three miles off the beach, and for 16 miles? No way! The Vineyard by definition is an endangered species, unique and at risk. It merits serious protection. It started with an idea. One man’s idea is another’s reality. We have to help shape this reality to be one we can live with.

Jim Feiner