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County seeks more control over offshore development

County officials are pushing for more local control over wind energy projects in state ocean waters. Barnstable County commissioners voted yesterday to nominate an area from roughly 1,500 feet off the coast to 3 miles out for greater protections from unwanted development. The targeted area, which includes Cape Cod Bay, covers roughly 900 square miles of water that might otherwise be open to wind energy developers.

BARNSTABLE - County officials are pushing for more local control over wind energy projects in state ocean waters.

Barnstable County commissioners voted yesterday to nominate an area from roughly 1,500 feet off the coast to 3 miles out for greater protections from unwanted development.

The targeted area, which includes Cape Cod Bay, covers roughly 900 square miles of water that might otherwise be open to wind energy developers at the end of the year when state officials are expected to release a much-anticipated ocean management plan for state waters. If approved by the county Assembly of Delegates, the proposed "district of critical planning concern" would mean stricter oversight of development in the area to protect environmentally sensitive resources.

"If we do this, we don't have to deal haphazardly with projects that come in here," Cape Cod Commission executive director Paul Niedzwiecki said before yesterday's vote.

The planning district's rules would also provide a more consistent process for developers who seek to build wind turbines in waters off the Cape, he said.

"This is not an effort to stop development out there," Niedzwiecki said.

Under the state... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

BARNSTABLE - County officials are pushing for more local control over wind energy projects in state ocean waters.

Barnstable County commissioners voted yesterday to nominate an area from roughly 1,500 feet off the coast to 3 miles out for greater protections from unwanted development.

The targeted area, which includes Cape Cod Bay, covers roughly 900 square miles of water that might otherwise be open to wind energy developers at the end of the year when state officials are expected to release a much-anticipated ocean management plan for state waters. If approved by the county Assembly of Delegates, the proposed "district of critical planning concern" would mean stricter oversight of development in the area to protect environmentally sensitive resources.

"If we do this, we don't have to deal haphazardly with projects that come in here," Cape Cod Commission executive director Paul Niedzwiecki said before yesterday's vote.

The planning district's rules would also provide a more consistent process for developers who seek to build wind turbines in waters off the Cape, he said.

"This is not an effort to stop development out there," Niedzwiecki said.

Under the state ocean management plan, waters around the Cape and Islands could be used for commercial- or community-based wind energy projects, although the size of potential projects remains unclear.

Ian Bowles, the state secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, recently agreed to give regional planning agencies such as the Cape Cod Commission and the Martha's Vineyard Commission authority to decide on the "appropriate scale" for projects in local waters.

In the waters off Cape Cod, between 10 and 25 wind turbines that are approved by local communities could be possible, Niedzwiecki said.

The county commissioners' proposed planning district would impose a moratorium on activities that require a permit in the affected area until Jan. 21, when the Cape Cod Commission is set to hold a public hearing to decide whether to move forward with the creation of the planning district.

If the Cape Cod Commission approves the planning district, a moratorium of up to a year would be imposed on certain activities while more public hearings are held and rules for development in the district are finalized, in particular for wind energy projects.

Other activities, such as dredging and aquaculture, would be exempt from the moratorium based on existing uses and comment from town officials. These and other uses would also be allowed in the planning district once the regulations are complete, Niedzwiecki said.

The state has encouraged the creation of such a planning district and the Martha's Vineyard Commission has already moved to create a planning district for waters around the island, he said. The greatest possibility for commercial wind energy projects exists southwest of the Vineyard, where state officials have said up to 166 turbines could be built.

Although Bowles has not specifically addressed districts of critical planning concern, the establishment of such restricted areas is consistent with the Cape Cod Commission's authority, said Lisa Capone, spokeswoman for the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

As long as a development moratorium does not affect ongoing dredging operations and a project to clean up Old Harbor, Sandwich officials would likely be receptive to the planning district, Sandwich Town Manager George "Bud" Dunham said yesterday.

If the county's establishment of the planning district coincides with a more progressive approach to renewable energy development, it could be a positive step for the region, said Chris Powicki, a local energy consultant and renewable energy advocate.

"We have a responsibility to develop non-emitting generation in local waters because we have a great resource," he said.


Source: http://www.capecodonline.co...

DEC 17 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/23671-county-seeks-more-control-over-offshore-development
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