To the Editor:
This letter was originally sent to the Tisbury Conservation Commission.
Reading the signage at the Lagoon Pond Bridge recently, I was reminded that the Lagoon is an estuary. I am sure conservation commission members already know what an estuary is, but I looked it up to educate myself. I found this: “Estuaries are important contributors to the health of ecosystems on land and in the ocean … The definition of an estuary is an area where a freshwater river or stream meets the ocean … With changes in water flows from these rivers and streams, and rising and waning tides of salty ocean water throughout the year, estuaries are dynamic ecosystems” (https://marinesanctuary.org/blog/what-is-an-estuary/). According to definitions here — fws.gov/wetlands/documents/ classwet/estuarin.htm — it looks to me as though the site of the proposed O&M terminal and the waters around it are within the Lagoon Pond estuary system.
National Estuary Program information on Massachusetts bodies of water of interest in the estuary context mentions Cape Cod Bay, Buzzards Bay, and Massachusetts Bay, but does not mention either Vineyard or Nantucket Sound, despite the presence of the Waquoit Bay estuary to the north and the Lagoon and other estuaries to the south. These estuaries surely affect the waters of both sounds.
The Lagoon’s water quality has been a pressing concern for decades. A 2010 study by the Massachusetts Estuary Project concluded that a system of culverts would reduce nitrogen loading in the west arm of the Lagoon by 28 percent. One of the culvert locations is basically at the site of the proposed O&M terminal.
The Lagoon Pond estuary is a precious asset, with clearly established value to two towns and as an element in the ecology of Vineyard Haven Outer Harbor and Vineyard and Nantucket Sounds. Preserving and improving its water quality is a higher priority than allowing an industrial expansion of dubious value to the town, one that may well degrade the functioning of the estuary system, and might also restrict opportunities for future improvements to the tidal flow in and out of the west arm of the Lagoon. Plenty of sea ducks (eider ducks, buffleheads, mergansers, long-tailed ducks, and others) and loons hunt for prey in the incoming and outflowing tide at the bridge. Perhaps in the future, tides flowing through culverts would also provide prey for shore birds.
Members of this commission and others may find it a worthwhile investment of time to look behind the scenes of the O&M industry via the webinar “O&M Challenges in Offshore Wind” (youtube.com/watch?v=7SAKOwwfTYU). Relevant commentary starts at about 8:00 (8:36, uncertainties related to wind turbine size; 8:41, business insurance; 11:52, subsidies running out; 13:50, industrialization of floating wind; 14:00, future issues for localization of O&M services).
A further concern of mine is helicopters, which are a major factor in the O&M of wind turbines and towers, especially the enormous 853-foot Haliade-X planned for the continental shelf. Could the O&M terminal be used as a landing location for helicopters? Has the town received guarantees that the O&M will never be used for helicopter storage or landing and takeoff? In the O&M webinar, see “Offshore Wind Park Logistics Deploying Helicopters” (about 17:00). Of particular relevance are the comments relating to cargo — materials needed to carry out maintenance (28:30).
In light of this presentation regarding the advantages of helicopters and of the following presentations, the obvious question is: What is the point of an O&M terminal in Vineyard Haven? The whole webinar gave me an opportunity to visualize in concrete form what the town is getting involved in if it becomes a hub for this industry.
New Bedford really wants this! Let’s just let them have it all!
Another concern is the potential for the O&M terminal to become an object of federal interest and control, in case of some kind of geopolitical incident in offshore U.S. waters.