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Capitol Hill weighing tighter limits on wind farms-Shipping buffer could sink project

In yet another congressional maneuver that could kill a wind farm proposed off Cape Cod, a conference committee is considering language that would prohibit wind turbines within 1.5 miles of shipping and ferry lanes.

The language is being circulated as part of an $8.7 billion Coast Guard authorization bill now in conference committee. If it remains in the final document, it would effectively kill the proposal by Cape Wind Associates to generate power by building 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound.

Mark Rodgers, a spokesman for the project's developer, said the 1.5-mile buffer zone would be unfairly punitive, because oil rigs can be sited within 500 feet of a shipping channel. And he said the prohibition is unnecessary because the Coast Guard already has the authority to decide whether the project is too close for safety.

Cape Wind's proposal to build a wind farm on a 24-square-mile area of Horseshoe Shoal, between the Cape and Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, is undergoing state and federal review. The turbines would stand within 400 yards of the shipping lane to the south of Horseshoe Shoal and within 1 nautical mile of the ferry route to the east, said Rodgers. A second ferry lane linking Hyannis and the islands could restrict the western side of the project.

''Even if you used the loosest interpretation, you'd be cutting into the shoal from three... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The language is being circulated as part of an $8.7 billion Coast Guard authorization bill now in conference committee. If it remains in the final document, it would effectively kill the proposal by Cape Wind Associates to generate power by building 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound.

Mark Rodgers, a spokesman for the project's developer, said the 1.5-mile buffer zone would be unfairly punitive, because oil rigs can be sited within 500 feet of a shipping channel. And he said the prohibition is unnecessary because the Coast Guard already has the authority to decide whether the project is too close for safety.

Cape Wind's proposal to build a wind farm on a 24-square-mile area of Horseshoe Shoal, between the Cape and Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, is undergoing state and federal review. The turbines would stand within 400 yards of the shipping lane to the south of Horseshoe Shoal and within 1 nautical mile of the ferry route to the east, said Rodgers. A second ferry lane linking Hyannis and the islands could restrict the western side of the project.

''Even if you used the loosest interpretation, you'd be cutting into the shoal from three different directions," Rogers said.

The head of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, which was formed to block the proposed wind farm, said that he has not seen the language but that his organization met with congressional subcommittee staff members this fall and alerted them to similar navigation concerns being raised in the United Kingdom. There, officials are considering whether to limit the proximity of offshore wind turbines to shipping channels because of concerns they could interfere with radar.

''We think it's very important," said Charles Vinick, CEO of the alliance. ''If you look at the Cape Wind installation, it is in a triangle. What you have to remember is that the shipping lane is also the backup for all traffic in the Cape Cod Canal if the canal is shut for any reason. This is not just a minor shipping lane; we have some three million passengers who travel on the ferry routes annually."

Two ferry services on Cape Cod, the Steamship Authority and Hy-Line Cruises, oppose the wind project and have written letters citing concerns that the towers could pose navigational hazards.

The language was added to the Coast Guard authorization bill by US Representative Don Young, said Steven Broderick, a legislative aide to US Representative William D. Delahunt, Democrat of Quincy.

Delahunt opposes the Cape Wind project, but was not involved with the new language, Broderick said.

Young, an Alaska Republican who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the conference committee on the Coast Guard authorization bill, made a separate effort to increase Coast Guard oversight of offshore wind farms in the same bill in September. The House passed the bill with an amendment intended to help the Coast Guard in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but also included language requiring the Coast Guard commandant to give a written opinion on whether offshore wind farms could interfere with navigation. The Senate did not pass similar language.

Neither a spokeswoman for Young nor his committee's spokesman returned calls for comment.


Source: http://www.boston.com/news/...

DEC 9 2005
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