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Federal officials respond to National Cemetery wind turbine criticism

Bourne News|Michael J. Rausch|September 9, 2022
MassachusettsImpact on People
Chief among the concerns raised was the lack of respect that is given to what is considered a “shrine” by forcing visitors to contend with the noise of a working wind turbine. Also expressed were concerns that the turbine’s rotating blades could have an adverse impact on visiting veterans, specifically those who may be struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In a letter to Bourne Fire Department Lieutenant Gilbert N. Taylor dated February 24, 2020, attorney Carole Julian argued that “visiting veterans and Gold Star relatives are among opponents who have told me how ‘offended,’ ‘hurt,’ ‘demoralized,’ etc. that they are by the turbine’s presence.” People claimed that its presence subtracted from the serenity visitors expect at such a setting, she said.

The 50-kilowatt wind turbine at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne stands about 150 feet tall.
 
A spokesman for the US Department of Veterans Affairs says a wind turbine currently in place and in use at the Massachusetts National Cemetery near Joint Base Cape Cod does not pose a threat to gravesite visitors.
 
In an email dated Thursday, September 1, Terrence Hayes, press secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs, responded to a number of questions relative to the use and positioning of the wind turbine that oversees a portion of the national cemetery.
 
The issues regarding the wind turbine at the national cemetery were on the agenda for the Bourne Select Board’s June 7 meeting, during which board members, on the advice of town counsel, decided not to take any action because the turbine is located on federal property, outside their jurisdiction. A letter to the board raised questions regarding the placement of the turbine, its proximity to gravesite locations and potential violations of local zoning ... more [truncated due to possible copyright]
     
The 50-kilowatt wind turbine at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne stands about 150 feet tall.
 
A spokesman for the US Department of Veterans Affairs says a wind turbine currently in place and in use at the Massachusetts National Cemetery near Joint Base Cape Cod does not pose a threat to gravesite visitors.
 
In an email dated Thursday, September 1, Terrence Hayes, press secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs, responded to a number of questions relative to the use and positioning of the wind turbine that oversees a portion of the national cemetery.
 
The issues regarding the wind turbine at the national cemetery were on the agenda for the Bourne Select Board’s June 7 meeting, during which board members, on the advice of town counsel, decided not to take any action because the turbine is located on federal property, outside their jurisdiction. A letter to the board raised questions regarding the placement of the turbine, its proximity to gravesite locations and potential violations of local zoning regulations. Concerns were also expressed that, given the turbine’s placement, a malfunction could result in injury to visitors.
 
Chief among the concerns raised was the lack of respect that is given to what is considered a “shrine” by forcing visitors to contend with the noise of a working wind turbine. Also expressed were concerns that the turbine’s rotating blades could have an adverse impact on visiting veterans, specifically those who may be struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
 
In a letter to Bourne Fire Department Lieutenant Gilbert N. Taylor dated February 24, 2020, attorney Carole Julian argued that “visiting veterans and Gold Star relatives are among opponents who have told me how ‘offended,’ ‘hurt,’ ‘demoralized,’ etc. that they are by the turbine’s presence.” People claimed that its presence subtracted from the serenity visitors expect at such a setting, she said.
 
Ms. Julian added that the sound of the turbine in operation called to mind the whirring of a helicopter’s propellers, re-igniting for visiting veterans the trauma of being in combat. The sound of the spinning rotors, she said, can “exacerbate the wounds of war.”
 
In his email, Mr. Hayes said the staff at the cemetery “prides itself on maintaining a place of peaceful repose,” and there have been no complaints from veterans that the turbine causes anxiety or distress.
 
“Our staff talks to veterans every day at the cemetery,” he said, “and the most common sentiment they express is appreciation for the way this beautiful national shrine is operated and maintained.”
 
Ms. Julian does have support for her position from state Representative for the 5th Barnstable District Steven G. Xiarhos. Rep. Xiarhos is a Gold Star father whose son, Nicholas, was killed in action while serving with the US Marines in Afghanistan.
 
In an emailed response, Rep. Xiarhos agreed with Ms. Julian’s position that a cemetery “is meant to be a place of repose, honor, and quiet reflection.” He said that the current location of the wind turbine at the cemetery “has always seemed to me to be odd, not to mention disrespectful to the legacy of those interred there.”
 
Another letter from Ms. Julian, dated February 24, 2022, and sent to several federal, state and local officials, said that wind turbine siting is subject to local regulations. The turbine at the national cemetery does not meet Town of Bourne zoning regulations or industry standards for setbacks, she said. It also violates federal government regulations, she said.
 
“The General Services Administration (GSA) requires every federal agency to submit to local authority when installing electrical power sources,” she said. “In defiance of GSA’s mandate and Bourne’s ordinance, VA erected a turbine (in 2011) in close proximity to public areas.”
 
In response, Mr. Hayes said the turbine “is not in violation of any known federal standards, regulations, or guidelines.” In addition, he said, it was made “in accordance with industry standards.” The national cemetery, he pointed out, is on federally owned land “and not under the jurisdiction of Barnstable County or neighboring municipalities.” Additionally, Mr. Hayes clarified that the cemetery is not part of Joint Base Cape Cod. The Department of Defense, he said, transferred 750 acres of land to Veterans Affairs in 1976 for the purpose of establishing the cemetery, which opened in 1980.
 
“It should be noted that a thorough federally mandated environmental assessment of the project was completed prior to erecting the wind turbine, and a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) was issued in July 2009,” Mr. Hayes said.
 
Additionally, installation of the wind turbine was done “in accordance with Federal regulations, VA Specifications, and OSHA (Occupational Safety And Health Administration) requirements,” he said.
 
Ms. Julian has also questioned the durability of the turbine itself. She claimed that the turbine failed and became inoperable less than halfway into its 20-year life expectancy. The turbine is back in operation, but her research showed that broken blades and a knocking sound were common problems with turbines built by the turbine’s manufacturer, she said.
 
“The turbine’s inaptly named foreign manufacturer, Endurance, ceased operations in 2016,” she said.
 
She raised concerns over the possibility of a visitor being hit by either a shattered blade or a piece of ice thrown from a spinning propeller. Mr. Hayes said that neither incident has occurred.
 
“Cemetery staff have not observed ice throw or accumulations of fallen ice at the base of the turbine or outside the security fence,” he said, “nor have there been instances of blade fragments falling off the turbine since it was installed.”

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Source:https://www.capenews.net/bour…

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