Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
BOSTON, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has approved what would be the United States' first offshore wind farm, off Cape Cod in Massachusetts, a government official briefed on the decision confirmed Wednesday.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because the person was not authorized to speak publicly ahead of Salazar's announcement scheduled for noon (1600 GMT) Wednesday in Boston.
Salazar's decision on the controversial Cape Wind project clears the way for a 130-turbine wind farm in Nantucket Sound.
Cape Wind was in its ninth year of federal review, and Salazar stepped in early this year to bring what he called much-needed resolution to the bitterly contested proposal.
Cape Wind says it can generate power by 2012 and aims to eventually supply three-quarters of the power on Cape Cod, which has about 225,000 residents. Cape Wind officials say it will provide green jobs and a reliable domestic energy source, while offshore wind advocates are hoping it can jump-start the U.S. industry.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has been an enthusiastic backer, pushing Cape Wind as key to the state's efforts to increase its use of renewable energy.
But Cape Wind met with heavy resistance from people who wanted it moved out of the sound, and its opponents are expected to continue to try to derail the project in court.
Critics say the project endangers wildlife and air and sea traffic, while marring historic vistas. The late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy fought Cape Wind nearly to his death, calling it a special interest giveaway. The wind farm would be visible from the Kennedy family compound in Hyannisport.
The project is about five miles (eight kilometers) off Cape Cod at its closest proximity to land and 14 miles (23 kilometers) off Nantucket at the greatest distance. According to visual simulations done for Cape Wind, on a clear day the turbines would be about a half inch (a centimeter) tall on the horizon at the nearest point and appear as 'specks' from Nantucket.
Opponents also said the power from the pricey Cape Wind project, estimated to cost at least $2 billion, would be too expensive.
Cape Wind appeared close to final approval in January 2009 when the lead federal agency reviewing the project, the Minerals Management Service, issued a report saying the project posed no major environmental problems.
But two Wampanoag Indian tribes claimed the project would ruin a sacred ritual that requires an unblocked view of the sunrise over the sound, and would be built on long-submerged tribal burial grounds.
Early this month, a federal historic council backed tribal claims and recommended Salazar reject the project, citing its 'destructive' affects on views from dozens of historic sites. The governors of six states, including Patrick, last week urged Salazar to ignore that advice, saying that would make it nearly impossible to place offshore wind projects on the Eastern Seaboard because so many offshore wind farm sites are visible from historic properties.