Offshore energy projects have a range of potential impacts on the coastal resource areas, including the shoreline, the sea itself, and the seabed, and on economically important species that depend on these habitats. Nantucket Sound is home to many different species of wildlife, including federally protected birds, turtles, and mammals. The Sound is also a component of a generalized region known as the Atlantic Flyway, one of the largest migratory bird routes in the world.
Because its biological diversity is unique, protecting Nantucket Sound is of high importance. Numerous state and federal agencies have cautioned that the Cape Wind project must not move ahead without proper analysis or regulatory oversight. Among them, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries anticipates “direct negative impacts to fisheries resources and habitat.”
Many respected environmental groups are concerned about the Cape Wind proposal as well. Among these organizations are the Barnstable Land Trust, Humane Society of the United States , International Marine Mammal Project, Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA), The Oceans Public Trust Initiative of Earth Island Institute, Orenda Wildlife Trust, The Pegasus Foundation, Three Bays Preservation, and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.
The proposed Cape Wind power plant has the potential of violating one or more federal laws, including:
* Endangered Species Act: The power plant may adversely affect several protected species listed as federally endangered or threatened.
* Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA): If the power plant construction or operation results in the killing, harming, or harassment of seals, dolphins, or whales, the project will violate the MMPA.
* Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA): If the power plant harms migratory birds, it would be in violation of the MBTA.
* Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (FCMA): The area is a designated Essential Fish Habitat.
Nantucket Sound Concerns
Noise and disturbance from the wind farm during construction, operation, and maintenance may result in damage to or loss of habitat, changes in species behavior and usage, increased avian mortality, and overall changes in the Sound’s ecology, including water quality and species distribution.
Oil Spill Threat
In addition to the 40,000 gallons of unspecified transformer oil on the proposed 10 story electrical service platform (ESP), the Cape Wind project would contain an additional 24,700 gallons of oil in the 130 turbines (190 gallons in each turbine). What beaches and inlets would likely be affected if the tanks on the ESP were to rupture, or if there were a vessel collision with a turbine causing oil to spill into Nantucket Sound? Cape Wind’s own computer simulation of a spill reveals that oil would reach Cape Cod and Island beaches within 5 hours. An analysis commissioned by the Alliance showed significant adverse impacts to the Nantucket Sound ecosystem, including harmful impacts to wildlife and shellfish/fish from a spill incident.
Horseshoe Shoal is a component of the Atlantic Flyway.
As many as six million birds migrate through the area in the spring and fall, usually at heights well above the turbine blades, except in foul weather when low cloud ceiling cause the birds to fly at altitudes at the same as the height of the rotors, creating the potential for an episodic catastrophic kill of migrating birds. The Sound also provides important habitat to sea and shorebirds with as many as 250,000 to 500,000 sea ducks wintering the Sound for approximately six months of the year. Biologically important numbers of endangered roseate terns and piping plovers use the Sound as a breeding and feeding area in the summer months, and are known to migrate through Nantucket Sound in spring and fall. Each August, thousands of roseates congregate on Monomoy Island prior to migration and then leave in great flocks, flying southeast, south, and southwest. How many of these birds pass through the proposed Wind site has not been verified.
Horseshoe Shoal is close to Muskeget and Monomoy Islands.
These are important haul-out areas for more than 7,000 gray and harbor seals and pupping sites for gray seals. Stranding data indicate that harp, hooded, harbor, and gray seals occur regularly from Falmouth to Monomoy and transit the area in significant numbers.
Atlantic white-sided dolphins, striped dolphins, and common dolphins are known to occur in Nantucket Sound. Pilot whales are frequently sighted in the fall, while harbor porpoises migrate through in the spring, and large whales, such as right whales, humpback whales and minke whales, are sometimes observed.
Endangered and threatened turtles such as leatherback, green, Kemps ridley and loggerhead are present during summer.