WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Wednesday he will decide by the end of April whether to approve a proposed wind farm off Cape Cod that has sparked a bitter, nine-year public fight.
Salazar’s comments came after meetings with key players in Cape Wind’s plan to build 130 turbines, each over 400 feet tall, in Nantucket Sound. The project would be located several miles from the Cape Cod shore, across a 25-square-mile swath of federal waters.
“To have it continuing to face a future of uncertainty is bad for everybody that is involved. … We are moving it forward with clarity,” Salazar said at a news conference after the meetings.
Opponents say it would be a hazard to aviation, harm the environment and mar historic vistas. Supporters say the project will provide cheaper energy, reduce pollution and create green jobs.
A major hurdle remaining is finding a way to protect Indian tribes’ spiritual traditions amid the construction of the turbines.
The National Park Service recently decided Nantucket Sound is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places as a significant traditional cultural, historic and archaeological property. The Mashpee and Aquinnah Wampanoag tribes say the designation, which would come with new regulations for activity on the sound, is needed to preserve the tribe’s sacred rituals.
Tribal rituals, including dancing and chanting, take place at secret sacred sites around the sound at various times, such as the summer and winter solstices and when an elder passes. The tribes also say their ancestors’ remains are buried on Horseshoe Shoal, where the turbines would be built.
Salazar said he hoped that the tribes, the project developers and other interested parties can forge a compromise on the issue before he makes a final decision.