Cape Cod Times: Powerful Incentive

Opinion: Powerful incentive

Vineyard Wind, which has yet to set up an ocean-based turbine, has recently come under intense scrutiny by some in the town of Yarmouth, not for the wind power that they hope to generate, but because of a power cable that would carry that energy to the mainland. Although there are legitimate questions about the construction and path of this conduit, a number of residents have instead adopted a tone of hysteria and panic rather than calm and rational discussion, an approach that serves no one well.

Lewis Bay is a picturesque body of water that provides those who live near it with spectacular views as well as recreational access to Nantucket Sound. It offers a sustainable – although admittedly disrupted – habitat to a variety of plants and animals, and is a strong draw among visitors to the area. It was also on the short list of possible landfall sites for Vineyard Wind due to a variety of factors, not the least of which was the fact that it represents a shorter distance – and therefore cost savings – over some of the competing sites.

None of this has assuaged the opinions of a small but vocal segment of Yarmouth voters who seem intent of wielding hyperbole rather than facts as they work to sink this proposal. Last week, some of them showed up at an open meeting to discuss the project. To hear some of them describe it, Lewis Bay represents a pristine, undisturbed nature reserve rather than a busy harbor that plays host to regular ferry visits, hundreds of moorings, and nearly a thousand shellfishing licenses.

Other speakers sought to challenge the path of the cable’s route after it reaches the shore. As proposed, the cable would travel up Berry Avenue and Higgins Crowell Road before passing under Willow Street. It would then follow the railroad bed into Barnstable. Much of the cable would pass along existing rights-of-way. This prompted the argument that such work could potentially pollute town water supplies or negatively impact the ability of emergency vehicles to exit the Yarmouth Police Department. This is, of course, outlandish. Consider this: How often do residents challenge any other utility on these grounds when companies seek to dig up roads for electric, natural gas, cable, or phone work?

Some of these same critics have railed against the effect that laying an underwater cable could have on the floor of Lewis Bay, but others have pointed out that a dredge of the bay, which virtually no one ever challenges, causes far more disruption to the sea life that calls it home.

The bay has also seen its own set of noncable-related challenges in recent years, as nitrogen loading issues have threatened the overall health and water quality of the bay. Some have made the argument that a portion of the millions of dollars that the town could potentially reap as a landfall site could be poured back into the bay to help offset the years of nitrogen loading caused by septic systems that crowd the bay. Vineyard Wind representatives initially proposed a $1 million initial payment to the town, followed by annual payments of $450,000 for the next 25 years, although a final deal has yet to be presented.

It is worth noting that selectmen have not yet decided whether to enter into an agreement with Vineyard Wind in connection with the project. Perhaps even more important to Yarmouth residents is the fact that Vineyard Wind need not enter into any agreement with the town for this project to move forward; ultimately, the state will have the final say over whether such a cable landfall takes place.

That is not to say that Yarmouth has to embrace the cable; residents and public officials could do a lot that would make such a move less palatable to Vineyard Wind. But doesn’t it make more sense to secure the best deal possible for the town as a whole and make sure concerns are addressed in a constructive manner rather than throw up specious arguments?

Many of the critics of the plan are the first to say that they have nothing but the highest regard for wind power and green energy in general, echoing the words and attitudes of who over the years have sung the praises of affordable housing – just so long as it was not proposed anywhere near where they lived. It is time to put such false arguments aside, and for constructive rather than convoluted discussion to carry the day.