Islanders concerned about Revolution Wind project

Issues raised by members of the Wampanoag tribe.

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Islanders gathered at the old Aquinnah town hall for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) public hearing regarding the Revolution Wind draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on Tuesday evening. 

According to the Revolution Wind website, this project will provide “Connecticut and Rhode Island residents 100 percent renewable energy to help conserve the New England environment.” However, the offshore wind farm will be closest to Martha’s Vineyard, 12 miles southwest of the Island. The project will be 15 miles away from Rhode Island, and 32 miles away from Connecticut. The project is anticipated to have 100 turbines and two export cables. The export cables will make landfall in Rhode Island. Revolution Wind is owned by Orsted and Eversource.

BOEM already held a virtual public hearing on Thursday, Sept. 29, and has another one planned for Tuesday, Oct. 11. BOEM environmental specialist Trevis Olivier said the Thursday meeting showed mixed reactions. “It’s a little bit of everything. Some oppose, some in favor. It’s still early,” he said about the September hearing. Olivier told The Times that the hearings will be available online on the BOEM website for those who miss them. 

The speakers began with a welcome by Meg Perry, SWCA environmental planner and facilitator, and Jessica Stromberg, acting chief of BOEM’s Environmental Branch for Renewable Energy. During the presentation, Olivier gave an overview of the project and draft EIS, possible alternatives for the project, relevant laws like the National Environmental Policy Act and National Historic Preservation Act, and BOEM’s meetings and consultations with the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. Tammy Turley, chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ New England district regulatory division, told the audience about regulatory and permitting decisions of the corps. The presentation slides can be viewed at https://bit.ly/3Mdb49U

Perry facilitated the public comment session, allowing each person five minutes to speak. Although comments were entered into the official record, no questions were answered on Tuesday.

“The comments will be summarized, and then a response will be provided to each of the types of comments. So your individual comment will be grouped with others along similar topics, and each topic will have a response in the final EIS,” Perry said. 

Some of the individuals who signed up to speak were no-shows.

Most of the Islanders who commented, many of whom were Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe members, expressed uncertainty about the project. 

Tribe member Berta Welch asked, “How does this project benefit the residents of Martha’s Vineyard?” and welcomed the presenters to “our indigenous homeland of Aquinnah.” 

Beverly Wright, another tribe member, asked what would happen in the case of a disaster, and about the turbines’ lifespans. 

“My third question, when I was looking back there, it says ‘potential’ that we will not see any towers from our Gay Head Cliffs. I do mind the word ‘potential,’” she said. 

When Wright asked again about the turbines’ lifespans, Perry gave a reminder that she is unable to provide immediate answers. “Some of these questions are answered in the [draft] environmental impact statement, and the folks here tonight can either give you the answer, or can tell you where there are more details in that document,” Perry said. 

Roxanne Ackerman, an Up-Island Regional School Committee member, wanted to find a way to get employment opportunities for young Vineyarders. Ackerman also asked, “What are the opportunities for Martha’s Vineyard to have benefits, and all of this electricity doesn’t just go past us?” 

Aquinnah resident Anthony Lefeber echoed Ackerman’s concerns. “It seems Martha’s Vineyard is getting all of the visual impact of this. Who is going to be sure that benefits come back to the Island?” he asked. “In terms of education, employment, environmental protection, and so forth.”

Aquinnah town administrator Jeffrey Madison said his town was “never provided notice” about the meeting, “despite the fact” a number of Aquinnah residents have been holding discussions with Revolution Wind for months. 

“I noticed that the town of Aquinnah has not been listed as a consulting party,” Madison said. “We insist on being included as a consulting party, and we’ve been treated as such by representatives of Revolution Wind, if not BOEM.”

Aquinnah Wampanoag tribal historic preservation officer Bettina Washington said the offshore wind farms planned for waters south of Martha’s Vineyard have detrimental effects on tribal culture. “Tribally speaking, this is our sacred place,” Washington said about the Island’s land and water. “That’s cultural viewshed for us.” 

Washington listed off potential harm the project could inflict, including the endangered North Atlantic right whales, submerged archaeological sites, and tourism. 

“If this is the only [public] meeting on the Island … how is it that there are only 12 Islanders here? Just wondering how this was advertised. That doesn’t seem correct,” Welch said, concluding the comments. 

The Times asked BOEM public affairs specialist Lissa Eng whether an abridged version of the draft EIS will be made available, considering the full statement is 598 pages, and the appendix is 1,788 pages long. Eng said no, but “synthesized information” will be available in the BOEM Virtual Meeting room, which is also where public hearing information is. The public can also ask BOEM questions directly, and their contact information is on the BOEM Contact Us page. Comments can be submitted online at regulations.gov or in writing enclosed in an envelope labeled “Revolution Wind COP DEIS” and addressed to Program Manager, Office of Renewable Energy Programs, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, 45600 Woodland Road, Sterling, VA 20166.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t think this was very well advertised.
    But I have a few points to make here.

    While the statement reads that this will supply electricity to RI and CT, the fact is that all of New England is connected to the same electrical grid.
    I have heard it all before–

    Opponents of the Maine Yankee nuclear plant claimed it was going to N.H.
    Opponent of the seabrook nuclear power plant in N.H claimed it was going to Ma.
    Opponents of the pilgrim nuclear plant in Ma. claimed it was going anywhere but Ma.
    They were all correct– It all goes into one grid.

    How will windmills that may be visible on the horizon on a few clear low humidity days in the summer affect tourism ?
    If anything , people would want to go out there and see them, and a new tourist attraction could provide jobs for locals with boats.
    Think of how cool a water slide spiraling around the pilings could be. How about a floating restaurant in the middle of them? Think of the selfie opportunities with “forced perspective” angles. Floating gift shops, as well as land based ones could sell little souvenir windmills next to their little souvenir lighthouses.

    And there are some potential benefits concerning hurricanes.
    https://physicsworld.com/a/offshore-wind-farms-could-protect-coastlines/

    Time to quit thinking afraid and start thinking creative.

    • At least this opinion you made is funnier than the last. I realize your responses are done to generate thought and debate even with sometimes with shocking ideas. Your comments are long winded. Will the restaurant be takeout? I’m looking forward to your current reply. Lets amp this up a level. Regards

      • Donald–The restaurant could indeed be takeout.
        Let’s think out of the box a bit. It would be tied up to one of the pilings.
        since there will be that 1/2 acre of rocks at the base, they could have their own lobster traps and just pull one up when a lobster is ordered.
        Lobster boats could also stop by and sell the lobsters they just caught around the other 61 pilings and put them in the Lobster pound floating in the middle of back deck of the restaurant where the dining room is. You could pick the lobster you want. But of course, since there would not be commercial fishing boats in there, there would likely be plenty of fish for your “turbine tourist” ( you saw that term first right here). A tourist could fish off of the attached “piers” , and the restaurant could cook them up for you ( at a reasonable price) — what kid wouldn’t love that ? If you don’t have a boat, just fly out there on the tour helicopter. We know they will already have a helipad.
        And let’s not forget about the seaweed salads, mussels, and oysters that could be grown along the lines strung between the pilings.
        https://ideas.ted.com/vertical-ocean-farms-that-can-feed-us-and-help-our-seas/
        And, to answer your question, it would be likely that most of the food would be takeout. Imagine you are out fishing with a few of your buddies 12 miles off shore and you run out of cold beer and cigarettes, and you find out the wife mistakenly put your kids peanut butter and jelly sandwich in YOUR lunch box ! No problem, the restaurant has a convenience store and could send the beer and smokes over along with your burger and fries via a drone if you are within about 5 miles of it. Toilet paper too ! 😉
        Out of bait ? No problem—
        And every good tourist spot needs a zip line. It could start at about 100 ft above the water -15 ft below the tip of the blade,( imagine that visual) and drop you in the ocean a mile away. It would be a little slow by zip line standards, but fun none the less, and you wouldn’t want to hit the water going 50 mph anyway. ! And Don’t forget the diving boards and snorkeling opportunities at the base of the pilings. Even the glass elevator to take you to the bottom of the pilings. I don’t know how exciting that would be, but you never know.
        All the while under the massive turning blades. Think about it.
        The kids would never forget it…
        It’s all doable.
        Hope you are entertained by my thoughts..
        Respect.

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