Edgartown, Vineyard Wind settle cable dispute

Settlement gives Edgartown more notices, information about Muskeget export cables.

Vineyard Wind reps before Edgartown the Conservation Committee on July 10. - Rich Saltzberg

Vineyard Wind and the town of Edgartown have reached a settlement in an appeal to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) over cables planned off Chappaquiddick in the Muskeget Channel. The Edgartown conservation commission had rejected cables in a 5-1 vote, but the settlement allows the project to move forward with concessions made to Edgartown.

Vineyard Wind must inform Edgartown of any cable protection used, such as concrete mattresses. It must report to Edgartown particulars of boulder relocation to make way for the cables. It also must provide certain environmental surveys in a timely manner — “generated and submitted” no later than one year and three years after cable laying is done. Once it has drafted one, it must provide a decommissioning plan to Edgartown for review. Vineyard Wind must also alert Edgartown of emergency repairs, and describe what those repairs will entail and what triggered them. 

The additional special conditions come after the July 10 commission vote left Vineyard Wind representatives looking stunned in the Ted Morgan meeting room of Edgartown Town Hall. After the vote, the wind energy company quickly sought and found relief from MassDEP, which issued a superseding order of conditions that effectively overruled the Edgartown vote. Edgartown appealed the ruling to MassDEP’s Office of Appeals and Dispute Resolution. On Tuesday, Oct. 1, MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg issued a final decision stipulating that the case was dismissed and both parties waived their rights to further administrative review.

Fishermen and commercial fishing advocates expressed concerns about the cable project at several hearings, citing fears about the unknown consequences of electromagnetic fields emanating from cables, should the cables become exposed, and citing fears about the effects of disturbed sediment. In a statement released after their vote, the Edgartown conservation commission cited insufficient information from Vineyard Wind as motivation for the denial.

“The commission found that the applicant, Vineyard Wind, did not submit sufficient information to protect against long-term and short-term adverse effects on the resource area, land under the ocean,” the commission stated in part. “This area is critical for the protection of marine fisheries, land containing shellfish, storm damage prevention, flood control, and protection of wildlife habitat. The commission determined that the predictions offered by Vineyard Wind were not sufficient to allow the alteration of the resources of Muskeget Channel at this time.” 

In a statement emailed to The Times by spokesman Brendan Moss, Vineyard Wind vowed to keep working with Edgartown. “Vineyard Wind places a priority on ensuring responsible environmental protections and local community engagement for every aspect of this project, and we have worked hard in that spirit since the project’s earliest inception,” Moss wrote. “The company greatly values the positive working relationships we have developed with communities around the region, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Edgartown Conservation Commission, Vineyard fishermen, and all stakeholders going forward.”

There is no new timetable for the cables to be installed, though the project still faces significant hurdles. Also in July, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) pushed the pause button on its environmental review of the project to consider some of the issues raised about the 84-turbine wind farm 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.

Vineyard Wind has won key approvals from the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB), the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act office, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, among others.