It has been a long, bumpy road for the Cape Wind project. It was right around this time last year that Cape Wind, which could be the first offshore wind farm for the US, first got federal approval, despite nine years of battling with opponents of the project. Not long after federal approval, Cape Wind got its first customer but celebrations were short-lived as a coalition of groups filed a lawsuit alleging that the project, among other issues, violated the Endangered Species Act. Since then progress toward making the project a reality has edged forward slowly, despite vocal discontent from residents of Massachusetts. Eventually, after 10 years of struggle, Cape Wind did get its permits but before construction could move forward, a Construction and Operations Plan (COP) needed to be approved by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE). Now, according to an announcement made by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, BOEMRE has approved the COP and, according to details in the plan, construction could begin as early as this fall.
Salazar insists in the statement that his department “has taken extraordinary steps to fully evaluate Cape Wind’s potential impacts on environmental and cultural resources of Nantucket Sound,” and goes on to describe the environmental impact analysis as “thorough.”
According to the Department of the Interior, details of the COP, including the project’s size and location, are essentially the same as analyzed in the Cape Wind Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) that was published in January 2009. The Cape Wind energy project would include 130, 3.6 megawatt wind turbine generators, each with a maximum blade height of 440 feet, to be arranged in a grid pattern in a proposed part of Nantucket Sound, offshore Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket Island.
As part of its evaluation of the COP, the bureau conducted an environmental assessment as stipulated by the National Environmental Policy Act to determine whether there were any significant impacts that had not been addressed in the 2009 FEIS or other environmental assessments. It concluded that all impacts had been properly examined. BOEMRE also issued a “Record of Decision” for the COP approval, which details the terms and conditions that Cape Wind Associates will need to follow in addition to terms that have already been laid out as a part of the lease agreement.