Environmental Study Demanded for U.S. Offshore Windfarm

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has requested that an Environmental Impact Statement be prepared for a proposal to operate the first offshore windfarm in the United States.

CONCORD, Massachusetts (US) 2002-02-11 [SolarAccess.com] Cape Wind Associates, LLC applied to the Army Corps to build the 179 turbine facility in federal and state waters off the coast of Massachusetts on Horseshoe Shoals in Nantucket Sound. A Notice of Intent detailing the project is published in the Federal Register this month, and public scoping meetings on the proposal will be held in March in Boston and on Cape Cod. The stated purpose of the project is to generate 420 MW of green power for distribution to the New England regional power grid, including Cape Cod and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The power will be transmitted to shore via a submarine cable system consisting of two 115 kV lines to a landfall site in Yarmouth. The undersea cable will then interconnect with an overland cable system, where it will connect with an existing electric transmission line for distribution. The proposed array of turbines would occupy 28 square miles in an area of Nantucket Sound known as Horseshoe Shoals, located between Nantucket Island and the Cape Cod mainland. The northern turbines would be 4 miles from the nearest landmass at Point Gammon, while the southeastern turbines would be 11 miles from Nantucket. The western extreme would be 5.5 miles from Martha’s Vineyard. The application for the federal permit was filed with the Corps of Engineers in compliance with Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which regulates the discharge or fill of material in U.S. waters and territorial seas, and with Section 10 of the Rivers & Harbors Act of 1899, which provides for federal regulation of any work in, under or over navigable waters. The turbines and the interconnecting electrical cables would be outside the three-mile limit and, therefore, are outside of the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Normally, Section 10 applies only out to the limits of the territorial seas. However, under provisions of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, anyone proposing such structures on the continental shelf must obtain a permit from the Corps of Engineers under Section 10. “The EIS process will be conducted in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) guidelines,” explains Sue Holtham of the Corps’ Planning Division. The NEPA process ensures that state, federal agencies and the public provide input and are involved in the environmental review process. “All existing relevant data is then collected and reviewed to address issues discussed during scoping,” she adds. Alternatives are developed, and data gaps identified and assessed to develop information collection needs with field studies used to fill data gaps. This leads to publication of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for public comment, during which time public meetings are held to obtain further comments and concerns on the DEIS and on the project. The process continues to the publication of a Final EIS where that is reviewed and comments taken from the public, leading finally to a Record of Decision. The process is expected to take between a year and a half to three years.

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