Cape Wind Site Not So Sacred After All?

Photo by phault, <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pjh/185488397/">via Flickr</a>.

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Dirty energy interests have been leading a campaign for nearly a decade to block Cape Wind, the country’s first offshore wind farm in the Nantucket Sound. They have been successful in delaying the project, but their real hope for conquering the wind farm didn’t come until last year, when two local Native American tribes requested that the sound be declared off-limits for development.

The turbines would disrupt their ritual of greeting the sun rise and impose on ancestral burial grounds, the tribes argued. The National Park Service determined last month that the sound could be considered for listing in the National Register of Historic Places in response to the tribes’ request.

But one tribe member says that appeal is a fabrication. “I never participated in, witnessed or even heard of a sacred spot on the horizon that is relevant to any Aquinnah Wampanoag culture, history or ceremony,” wrote Jeffrey Madison a member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head in a letter to Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar obtained by the Martha’s Vineyard Gazette. “The notion that locating wind turbines in Nantucket Sound will impose on, impact or harm any cultural tradition is just plain false … I believe it to be a fabrication, invented by a small number of tribal members, who happen to be involved in tribal government and who happen to be opponents of Cape Wind who wish to derail the project.”

Madison is an attorney with Wynn and Wynn, a firm that has worked for the Cape Wind developers, so he’s not without his own influences here. But he also has a long personal and familial history in tribal leadership. He also argues that the tribal leadership was divided on opposing the wind farm when it debated the issue in 2004, and submitted documents showing that their final determination was that the farm did not pose a threat to their traditions.

The project developer, tribes, and other stakeholders were given the month of February to try to reach a resolution, and if they can’t come to an agreement by Monday, Salazar will make the final call. A decision is expected by April.

Madison’s letter asks Salazar to focus on impacts other than the spiritual claims in reaching his conclusion: “Mr. Secretary, your decision on whether to allow construction of the wind turbines in Nantucket Sound should rest in scientific analysis and environmental impact. However, it would be wrong to allow your decision to be influenced by fabricated cosmology.”

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