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Archive for Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Celebrities protest wind farm off Mass. coast

August 12, 2003

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— The rich and famous have long flocked to the beaches of Cape Cod and the island seclusion of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket -- a land of sailboats and quaint vacation homes.

Now some of these celebrities want to make sure wind turbines don't become a part of the scenery.

They are fighting a proposed $700 million wind farm in the Nantucket Sound that would provide electricity to thousands of homes in the area, saying the giant turbines will mar the landscape of one of the nation's most pristine areas.

Legendary newsman Walter Cronkite, a part-time resident of Martha's Vineyard, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., whose famous political family has a compound in Hyannis, began campaigning against the renewable energy project last year.

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough recently jumped into the fray and can now be heard on one-minute radio spots decrying the project.

"I'm not against wind turbines," said McCullough, who has been a full-time resident of Martha's Vineyard for 30 years. "I'm against 130 of them over 400 feet tall right smack in the middle of one of the most beautiful places in America. That's a hundred feet taller than the Capitol dome in Washington."

Cape Wind Associates, the private company that is currently seeking a federal permit for the project, wants to put up 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound in what would be the nation's first offshore wind farm.

The turbines -- 420 feet tall -- would be about 3 miles off the coast and supply close to three-quarters of the electricity used on Cape Cod and the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard.

The farm's proximity to exclusive summertime playgrounds of Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod has bred the familiar "not-in-my-back yard" charges from officials at Cape Wind Associates.

"If the government determines that this project is in the public interest, that ultimately is much more important than anyone's individual aesthetic opinion," Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers said. "If these agencies determine that this project is in the public interest, then we would supply three-quarters of the electricity that Mr. McCullough will use in his home from a clean, renewable resource."

McCullough points out that he has no view of the Sound from his home and that he has become involved in projects far from his back yard. He helped derail Disney's proposed Civil War theme park near a Virginia battlefield a decade ago.

"I feel strongly about preserving the unspoiled places in America, no matter where they are," McCullough said. "That Sound, that beautiful place out there ... is not just the back yard of those of us who are blessed enough to live in this part of America, but to some 5 million people who come here from all over the world."

Because Cape Wind is proposing the project in federal water, states have no power to stop it. Supporters say that at least 17 state and federal agencies, led by the Army Corps of Engineers, are reviewing the project. A draft document outlining the environmental impact is expected as early as September, with a decision on a permit as much as a year away.

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