By Beth Daley
The Obama administration today signaled a sudden urgency to resolve the nine-year dispute over building a wind farm off
The move came minutes after the
Native Americans' pursuit of the historic designation is the last outstanding major issue before Cape Wind Associates can begin construction in the Sound, and the Park Service's decision threatened to further delay an already glacial review process for the 130-turbine wind farm.
But in a written statement, Salazar directed that "principal parties" meet next week, likely in
Salazar oversees the Park Service, and although it is unlikely he would overrule its eligibility determination, he could orchestrate a compromise all parties would have to accept. An Interior Department spokeswoman said the date and exactly who would be attending was still to be determined. However, it is expected that
Salazar's intervention in the heated battle over the
“There is a renewed sense of urgency to address climate change in the wake of Copenhagen and the need for real action on the ground, or on the water, in this case," said Sue Reid of the Conservation Law Foundation, a Boston-based advocacy group.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick hailed Salazar's involvement, saying in a statement, "I'm pleased that Secretary Salazar is personally convening the parties next week to address any potential historic impacts of the Cape Wind Project. The decision by the (National Park Service) is unfortunate, but should not be an obstacle to this vital clean energy project moving forward."
The Wampanoag tribes of Aquinnah and Mashpee have said for several years that the
The National Park Service was widely expected to dismiss the Sound as ineligible for listing because there was no specific property associated with the determination and the service itself says it discourages the nomination of natural bodies of water. But in a seven-page explanation of the determination, service officials said Nantucket Sound was unusual because it was dry land before sea levels slowly rose after the last ice age, and it was clear that Native Americans had lived there in that time -- and likely on more elevated lands that were exposed longer, such as Horseshoe Shoals where the Cape Wind project is proposed.
“Based on multiple sources of evidence, the Sound is part of a larger, culturally significant landscape treasured by the Wampanoag tribes and inseparably associated with their history and traditional cultural practices and beliefs, as well as with the Native American exploration and settlement of Cape Cod and the
Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, said in a statement that the decision “confirms what the Wampanoag people have know for thousands of years -- that Nantucket Sound has significant archeological, historic and cultural values and is sacred to our people.”
Proponents of the
Dennis Duffy, vice president of Cape Wind Associates, said he was encouraged by Salazar's involvement because “for the first time after all these years there is a definite decision date on the calendar.”
The news is the latest -- and probably the most significant -- twist in the
Some saw Salazar's involvement as helping the Obama administration -- and the Patrick administration -- gain favor with the public. Jack Clarke, a Mass Audubon public policy specialist and lobbyist, said Obama and Patrick have supported each other over wind energy.
"It's a tough election year for the Governor ... there are some political overtones to this,'' Clarke said. He said Salazar's decision will have ramifications across the country because if Nantucket Sound is placed on the National Register, other federal bodies of waters can be too, potentially slowing offshore renewable development. "This is the last major hurdle," he said, "and all the states are watching this."