Letters to the Editor
No to NSTAR
To the Editor:
There is a pond in my yard. It may not be the ocean, vast and powerful, covering much of our earth. It may not be a rampant, rumbling river, crashing over rocks and miles of terrain. But in its own colorfully eccentric Oak Bluffs way, this pond is spectacular. For 16 years, I have been sharing morning coffee and afternoon meditations with this pond and all its inhabitants.
This pond is a complete ecosystem, which includes many creatures from the State Forest, which it abuts. It is mostly peaceful in the afternoons, except for the turtle conventions. There are conventions of 30 or more turtles, every size, basking together on the pond banks in the afternoon sun. I am not sure if these conventions are business related, or more like the French Riviera for turtles.
When I desire privacy, sometimes I go down to my pond and talk on the phone. I've discovered it's just no use trying to have a private conversation with 50 pairs of googly green eyes ogling me from algae covered heads. Frogs - green frogs and bull frogs - are just as interested in Island gossip as the rest of us. They want to hear any juicy tidbits regarding the Vineyard's human antics.
There is one particularly enormous frog that sings every summer night. He does not sing "Joy to the World," so I could not name him Jeremiah. I think he sings "I Feel So D@#% Good, I Can Hardly Wait To Get The Blues." Blues bullfrog has a voice as deep and dark as the most robust grinds of coffee. I named him after my favorite blues singer on the planet, Larry McCray. Like his human counterpart, the frog sings loudly and indefatigably until well past midnight, but during the day, he is really quite sociable and friendly. When he frog-dives the pond, he makes a large cannonball splash. This frog fellow must weigh more than five pounds, and he has been around quite a few years.
Before Larry's reign, my toddler played with her Island Montessori friends and schoolmates by the pond's edge for hours at a time - collecting tadpoles, turtles, fish, or tiny frogs in their buckets. At the end of the day, all creatures would be returned to their ecosystem, perhaps a bit worse for the wear and tear, but with never a casualty. As a mother, I am delighted and proud that my daughter grew up with a nature-based childhood on the Vineyard. I feel blessed that we had a yard, as well as the clean pond, to play near. The kids learned that ponds are filled with live green things.
This pond is not chlorinated or contaminated by pesticides or herbicides. Kids can safely wade, dogs can safely swim, and deer can safely drink, in this pond's water. There are pinkletinks peeping every spring, and beautiful dragonflies galore all summer. Hummingbirds too. In the fall, black ducks, mallard ducks, and blue herons come to rest before further migration. Sometimes the ducks spend the better part of the winter, and so many birds and animals use the pond for fresh drinking water year-round.
My pond doesn't stand up, wave or shout "Look at me." It is not an obvious place. I am inspired to write about this humble small pond, teeming with nature's diverse personalities, because NSTAR wants to start spraying herbicides along their electrical easements on my property, one of which is less than 100 feet from this pond's edge. I am afraid that the whole pond, and all its creatures, will be poisoned to death.
I guess it just costs too much money for NSTAR to mow the easements every three to five years, so they want to poison the "unwanted woody species" instead. They call it "vegetation management." They give you 48 hours notice, and then they show up and spray their herbicides.
I don't think my pond, or any other pond on this Island, needs the increased toxic load resulting from mass application of herbicides, under every electric right of way on the Island.
They plan to spray Martha's Vineyard this very week. As my teenage daughter always says: "It's just plain wrong."
Call NSTAR's Paul Sellers at 508-957-4517 and tell him you don't want herbicides on your Island.
Hopefully, Larry the Blues Bullfrog won't be singing "Gone for Good."
Tamsan Beattie Tharin
Another DCPC proposal
To the Editor:
Martha's Vineyard is a garden of Eden. It could be a model of sustainable living, a place where humans live in cooperation with nature.
Instead of having to choose between the good of the planet (wind energy) and the good of Martha's Vineyard (protection of our shores) this could be an opportunity to work for both.
The Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) should create a District of Critical Planning Concern (DCPC) for sustainable energy (more than just wind turbines) encompassing all of Martha's Vineyard's waters and land, one that would be comprehensive enough to deal with the environment as a whole and one that would be a model of sustainable living. This would include the increased use of renewable energy, but would also include the decreased use of carbon based energy, and conservation of energy use as a whole.
The Oceans Management Act is not comprehensive. It deals with industrial-sized wind turbines, not the environment as a whole. But, in fact, these turbines could be the money-making engine that drives the change to sustainability. A sizeable percentage of the income from the turbines could go to a fund that subsidized a wide range of energy and conservation initiatives here on the Island and, later on, the region and the state - retrofitting homes to make them more affordable and energy-efficient, supporting new transit alternatives and building a smart grid. But also, taking steps to protect our ponds, restore wetlands, reclaim despoiled lands and preserve sensitive habitat.
This new DCPC could be a showcase for Massachusetts - the state is developing a number of statewide environmental policies, under several different acts, to deal with climate change, such as the Green Communities Act and a new building code. Martha's Vineyard could be the place to integrate these new laws, under the direction of the MVC. This is exactly what the MVC was created for, to protect the natural beauty of the Island. But we could also be an example of a way of life that would protect the natural beauty of the entire earth. The state and Martha's Vineyard should work together.
Implementing the energy goals outlined in the Island Plan would be a start. The Island Plan is a comprehensive regional plan initiated by the MVC with a strong focus on energy use and sustainability. It is just now being finalized and will be a useful guide to the direction we should take. Energy use can be controlled and influenced by zoning regulations, building codes, transportation changes. A sustainable environment also involves improvement of the treatment of our ponds and drinking water. The resources brought in by large wind turbines could be used to finance many of the projects outlined in the Island Plan.
If Martha's Vineyard is to bear the brunt of the new industrial wind energy, it should also be a showcase for the new way of life to go with it. Tourists will see the new wind turbines, and in the process they should also see what good can come from them.
Certainly we will not solve either our energy problems or the larger issue of global warming and environmental degradation unless we bring all these concerns together into an integrated policy. Constructing new energy supplies, however renewable they may be, without a corresponding conservation program and a sensitive appreciation for the land, wildlife, and scenery of this island, is likely to do much more harm than good - pumping new energy into a wasteful system and throwing good money after bad.
The MVC's comments on the Ocean Management Plan are excellent and cover most of our concerns - conservation, mitigation, scenic values, and the great variety of local concerns and values. We need to work with the state to improve and expand the objectives of the Ocean Act, so that it covers these concerns. For our part, we should create a District of Critical Planning Concern for Sustainable Energy Use and not just for regulating the location of wind turbines.
The goal here is to identify Martha's Vineyard as a model of sustainability, perhaps with a special designation as such from the state. For that, we need to create a DCPC explicitly for that purpose and to make that DCPC compatible with the State's Ocean Management Act.
How about a rebate?
To the Editor:
Will the Oak Bluffs Water Department be issuing rebates to its customers?
We will be using more water to flush our systems and water heaters. We had a system that was basically down for a period of time.
Most utilities give rebates when these interruptions occur.
Bob St. Germain
To the Editor:
I would like to say thank you to Michael Dutton and the rest of the staff who with little notice pulled together a town wide water giveaway which really helped Oak Bluffs residents deal with the recent town water crisis. Nice job. Much appreciated.
Vineyarders, Wake Up!
To the Editor:
It started with an idea. One developer, sitting on his back porch on the mainland thought of an idea to generate energy and profits from a wind development in the ocean. It happened that it was our ocean and right off the shores of a scenic and unspoiled place we call home. So he lobbied the governor and we now have before us the Oceans Management Plan.
This plan is one that strikes me as short-sighted and narrow-minded. The cost to all who live on, love, and cherish the Vineyard is beyond anything that can be mitigated. We do not put a price on our waters, our unspoiled views, on the clarity of the night skies, on our sunsets. It was audacious to hear the developer suggest that he wanted us, the Vineyard community, to benefit financially from the industrialization and mass desecration of our most pristine asset. This is a clear situation of the government rushing to create corporate opportunities at the expense of and with little regard for the public. To me it seems as if the tail is wagging the dog.
Why, if this plan is supposed to be comprehensive, does it not take into account newer technology, wave technology and other forms of energy generation that could have less impact? Why is the only place for these towers off our shore? The answer is simple. It was written to be project-specific and address the concerns and issues that would arise only to get the current proposed project approved. It is quick and easier.
As I testified at the meeting, there are many unintended consequences of this act, which I labeled collateral damages. Already, I had a real estate client walk away from a purchase of a home with glorious views that would take into account much of the proposed 160 wind towers. He called it "government and industrial disrespect and insensitivity." There is no doubt that the value of real estate here would be impacted by this project. What people flock to the Vineyard for, what makes us special in so many ways, what assessors use as a gauge to generate tax revenues would be compromised. How much, how bad is all a matter of perspective. The Vineyard has worked hard through the MVC to preserve and promote intelligent and sensitive development. The natural scenic beauty of this Island is paramount to why people come here to vacation and to live. At 450 feet tall it is possible that the towers would loom ominously high in the water view of every property owner looking to the south and west from Aquinnah to Edgartown. Why has there been so little heard from this vast population of potentially affected people? Perhaps it's the speed with which the proponents are attempting to pass this bill.
Another unintended consequence would be from the 30 years of bombs accumulated underwater off the shores of Nomans Land and the possible toxic plumes we'd be contending with when underwater drilling and pile driving wreaks havoc on the purity of our waters and our beaches. If the undersea floor of Nomans was aboveground you can bet it would be declared a Superfund site, but I'll leave this issue to those who know more about toxics than I.
It started with an idea. Ideas are cheap and easy, but the consequences of an idea can be dire and long-lasting. Wind power is important and we need it now to begin reversing the affects of global warming, but three miles off the beach, and for 16 miles? No way! Let's be smart and creative and come up with a solution that works for all. The Vineyard is an endangered species, unique and at risk. It merits serious protection. One man's idea is another's reality. We have to help shape this idea to be one we can live with. And we need to do it soon.
We are blessed
To the Editor:
I hate bigots, bullies, and abusive authority. I admire and respect professional EMTs, firemen, hospital personnel, and police officers. The Vineyard is blessed with a preponderance of the latter four.
Gus Ben David
The issues behind the DCPC
To the Editor:
The Martha's Vineyard Commission has 45 days from September 17 to vote to accept or reject the nomination to create an Island wind district of critical planning concern (DCPC) that would cover the waters of Dukes County. The purpose of the DCPC is to provide a framework to regulate large-scale wind turbine development.
My fear is that the MVC could end up with everything it is looking for except any meaningful revenue from near offshore wind-generated electricity. At the end of our meeting one of my colleagues, who will go nameless, said to me, "Peter this is a political statement," to which I replied, "Oh, I thought this was supposed to be a statement about energy."
The draft Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan is a comprehensive plan for developing the three-mile-wide strip of ocean that lines our coast. The "Plan" tries to balance resource protection and human uses. The draft plan represents the state of the art in ocean planning. It applies the best available science with the firsthand knowledge of stakeholders and creates a new template for reviewing projects proposed for state waters. The draft plan establishes special, sensitive, and unique categories for management policies in areas representing more than 60 percent of Commonwealth waters. The plan also combines spatial designations for certain functions - notably the highly protected Prohibited Area off the Cape Cod National Seashore, as well as the designation of two areas for wind energy development.
Navigant Consulting identified the theoretical generation capacity from near offshore (within three miles) facilities at 19,000 MW. After factoring for avian and marine mammal habitats, other marine resources, view sheds and shipping routes, the Navigant study identified the technical generation capacity from offshore wind energy facilities at 6,270 MW.
The Ocean Plan goes on...Recent developments in furthering the development of wind energy generation, include the establishment of the Marine Renewable Energy Center (MREC) at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School of marine Science and Technology, created to develop in-ocean test sites for energy conversion devices and accelerate the commercialization of new technologies. MREC is currently funding wind (shallow, transition and deep water) and tidal resource assessment and environmental survey work in Edgartown and Nantucket, within a proposed National Offshore Renewable Energy Innovation Zone that would support full-scale testing of wave and wind energy devices as depicted on Figure 4-3 in the draft plan.
Massachusetts is also soon to be home to a national Wind Technology Testing Center capable of assessing the large-scale blades, up to 295 feet long, used in offshore installations.
Wind farms typically generate most of their energy at night, when most of the electrical demand is lowest. A couple of Massachusetts companies have come up with ways for bottling up this energy for use by air conditioners and other appliances during the day.
Among the leaders is a Massachusetts company called Beacon Power that plans to use hundreds of flywheels to store 20 MW of electricity. Beacon Power is working with a $43 million dollar loan guarantee for its $69 million storage project in Stephentown, N.Y., which is scheduled to break ground by year's end. The plant would store cheap "off peak" electricity in 2,500-pound flywheels that turn faster than the speed of sound. When electricity prices are more expensive, usually in summer afternoons - or when the wind does not blow - electricity can either be used or sold to the grid at a premium rate. Beacon has been researching and developing its flywheel design for about 10 years and is confident the technology is ready to be scaled up significantly, and it looks like the federal government believes their research and is giving them money to prove their system.
In addition to flywheels, companies are looking to technologies like massive lithium-ion batteries and underground caverns of compressed air for grid scale storage.
Southern California Edison Co. last month announced that it is asking for a $25 million dollar stimulus grant to help Massachusetts-based A123 Systems Inc. build the world's biggest lithium-ion battery. 123's 32-megawatt-hour battery would be assembled using racks of similar batteries at a substation in Southern California's Tehachapi Mountains. The battery would be used to counterbalance wind power sent from the mountains to the utility's customers in the west and south.
Three of the nine main concerns surfaced in MVC comments made to the draft Ocean Plan had to do with A) Relation between Town, RPA and Commonwealth Approval Processes (denials by the MVC are not appealable to EFSB, B) Local Benefit and Mitigation (50/50 royalty sharing between the Commonwealth and host communities), and C) Limited Consideration of Federal Waters.
A plausible scenario of positive outcomes to the above three concerns and the situation that could result should be understood by the MVC and the residents of Martha's Vineyard. I spent significant portion of my entire career designing and constructing coal-fired, oil-fired, and nuclear power plants. I worked a nuclear refueling outage at the Pilgrim station in Plymouth. I understand the give and take associated with negotiating electrical contracts. I can envision the following as one possible outcome between the Commonwealth and Martha's Vineyard.
We (the state) agree that A) appeals to MVC decisions concerning energy development will not be appealable to the ESFB; B) the state will share 50/50 royalties with the host communities and C) would like to thank the MVC for being the catalyst for opening up federal waters. By moving the areas to just south of the two designated areas the state can more than adequately meet its need for the 6,270 MW identified in the draft Ocean Plan. If the state develops electrical power in federal waters the state's 27 percent royalty will not be shared. The state understands that a one-year moratorium is in effect for Martha's Vineyard and wants the MVC to understand that the state will be aggressively pursuing electrical power generation in adjacent federal waters. Two plug-in cables (one redundant in the event one shorts out) can be sized and installed to the plug-in sub-station in New Bedford that can accommodate electrical power generation in state and federal waters. In order to properly size the cable for installation later next year, the state will have to know, by March 1, 2010, how much of the potential 6,270 MW will be developed in the waters surrounding Martha's Vineyard. The state looks forward to working with the MVC.
It would appear to me, that more of MVC's time might be better spent on learning more about how to meet Martha's Vineyard's energy needs and less time on making a political statement.
To the Editor:
My host, Allan Denchfield of Cambridge, and I join in writing this letter of gratitude in praise of one of your Islanders, your SSA terminal manager Leigh Cormie, who was working on the night of September 16. I traveled up from Palm Beach, Florida for a much anticipated quiet vacation on Martha's Vineyard. We took the last ferry across to Vineyard Haven that chilly night and, while assembling our luggage, found the buses and taxis had all departed and the parking lot gone dark.
As we are unfamiliar with Island ferry travel and the schedules of connecting buses and available taxis, we found ourselves in a bit of a pickle, with few resources to extricate ourselves from our predicament.
Mr. Cormie quickly understood our desperate situation and discomfort, and after closing the SSA terminal's ticket office, quietly pulled his heated pickup truck alongside our many bags and generously offered us a lift to our destination. This magnanimous gesture and act of thoughtfulness helped set my birthday vacation on a very positive footing. My, what a present.
Martha's Vineyard and the Steamship Authority is fortunate indeed to count Mr. Cormie among its valued numbers. We'll be forever grateful for this problem solver's understated manner, his timely act of warmth and generosity, as well his steadfast refusal to accept any token of our great appreciation.
From your delightful Island paradise all the way to Florida and beyond, we will sing Martha's Vineyard's praises, Leigh Cormie's watershed act of kindness, and the Steamship Authority's good fortune to have Mr. Cormie in its employ. Together, we were left a lasting, highly favorable impression of your Island.
We can't thank Leigh enough. We are fully confident that we are but two of countless ferry passengers and Islanders who have quietly benefited from and been graced by Mr. Cormie's capable skills, creativity, and unheralded acts of thoughtfulness and kindness.
With warmth and great appreciation.
Lisa B. Epstein and Allan O'Brien Denchfield
Worth a try
To the Editor:
I am a reluctant playgoer. I am neither a theater critic nor a Broadway enthusiast, so when I was "encouraged" to attend "Shakespeare for the Masses" last year, I looked for excuses. Too long, I said. "Only an hour" was the reply. "How much?" I said. "Free" was the answer, and I recognized I was losing. "Who wants to watch a tragedy, life is full of tragedy?" I said. "It is a very different view of Shakespeare and it is full of laughs." I saw myself in a losing battle and resigned myself to the inevitable. I have not missed one since.
"Shakespeare for the Masses" is one of the lesser known Vineyard treasures that makes life wonderful here in the off season. It is done by very talented people, for all the right reasons, not the least of which is apparently the love of entertaining.
If you love theater, you should know about it. If you don't, please give it a chance. It is simply a remarkably enjoyable and amusing experience. The next play is in a couple of weeks and if you think Shakespeare is staid, outdated, irrelevant, and hard to understand, like I did, you are in for a big surprise.
Thanks to the troupe. You are amazing.
The OMG reaction
To the Editor:
The lead headline in the October 1 issue of The Martha's Vineyard Times was dramatic: "Oak Bluffs water fouled." So was the subhead: "Coliform contamination requires water to be boiled."
I read the whole long story, beginning to end. I learned that a "boil water order" issued by the state's Department of Environmental Protection could be lifted by October 2. I learned that tests made earlier in the week were "free of bacteria." I learned that the trouble started on September 24, when "routine monthly sampling showed the presence of coliform bacteria in the water." The article added, helpfully, that "coliform bacteria are naturally present in the environment and are used by environmental officials as an indicator that other, potentially more harmful, bacteria may be present."
I read on, and on. I learned a lot about who knew what when, and especially who didn't know what in a timely fashion. I learned that "literally thousands of people" got the news via Sharky's Cantina." I learned that the Boston Globe had screwed up one detail and that the Vineyard Gazette had screwed up another. I learned of the challenges the "boil water" order had posed to the Martha's Vineyard Hospital.
What I didn't learn was what danger coliform bacteria in the drinking water poses to those who drink the water, and how this might vary depending on the age or health of the person doing the drinking. Given the delay in dissemination of the "boil water" order, it seems that hundreds if not thousands of Oak Bluffs residents must have been drinking unboiled water. Have any of them suffered any ill effects?
The only ill effect reported was indirect but disastrous. A house burned down because the householder was under the impression that "boil water" applies to bathing water as well as drinking water and the pots were left on the stove too long. It's not hard to draw a connection between the "boil water" order and the destruction of a house, but the important connection is not the most obvious one. Neither the Department of Environmental Protection nor the Oak Bluffs Water Department is responsible for the fire, though they aren't totally blameless either.
The real problem is that we - on Martha's Vineyard as well as in the rest of the country - have become a jumpy and easily frightened people. We overreact to "boil water" orders and swine flu warnings, to terrorist threats, Internet virus warnings, and rumors that the president wasn't born American. We don't have the knowledge to parse the information we take in, or the patience to learn what we need to know. "When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout." That's us.
A population that scares easily is going to get suckered by rumor after rumor, and - more seriously - it's a sitting duck for the next demagogue who rides into town and promises to make us safe. I can inform myself about and take precautions against contaminated water, swine flu, deer ticks, and suicide bombers, but there's just about nothing I can do to protect myself from a hysteria-prone citizenry. And that's scary.
Susanna J. Sturgis
An unshrunk ton
To the Editor:
The Vineyard Conservation Society thanks the individuals and businesses participating in this year's campaign to collect and recycle the plastic shrink wrap used to cover boats.
They include: Bruno's Inc., Edgartown Marine, Gannon & Benjamin, Keith Maciel, Maciel Marine, Mark DeFeo Marine Services, Martha's Vineyard Shipyard, Menemsha Marine Repair, R.M. Packer Co., Tashmoo Boatyard & Crane Service, Vineyard Haven Marina.
The campaign succeeded in collecting more than one ton of shrink wrap and transporting it to an off-Island recycling facility. This recycling initiative is part of the Vineyard Conservation Society's effort to promote sustainable practices, including conservation of land, energy, and materials.
We look forward to doing it again next spring, bigger and better.
Members of the Board
Vineyard Conservation Society