Selectmen Vote Support Of Wind Farm Operations

Falmouth Enterprise article, reprinted here with permission.By CHRISTOPHER KAZARIAN

Falmouth selectmen voted favorably on the idea of housing Cape Wind’s base of operations here at its meeting on Monday if the federal government approves the firm’s proposed 130-turbine offshore wind farm.

Mark J. Rodgers, director of communications for Cape Wind and a North Falmouth resident, made the pitch to selectmen with the majority calling it a home run as the project would bring roughly 30 to 35 jobs here, with those employees responsible for the yearly operations and maintenance of the turbines.

Over the past eight years, the Cape Wind project has gone through a lengthy vetting process that is coming to a close with a decision from the US Minerals Management Service expected within the next several weeks.

During that time, Mr. Rodgers said, Falmouth has already reaped some benefits from the proposed wind park with the local firm Woods Hole Group chosen as a major contractor to build and monitor Cape Wind’s scientific data tower, at a cost of $2 million, in Horseshoe Shoal off Nantucket.

Frequent trips have been made to that site, Mr. Rodgers said, using another local company, Patriot Party Boats, owned by James H. Tietje.

There is a strong possibility, Mr. Rodgers said, that the relationship with Falmouth could grow as Cape Wind will want to use a local port during the construction period, although the assembly will be done in a major deepwater port off-Cape.

Once erected, he said, Cape Wind will be looking to house its maintenance and operations crew somewhere on Cape Cod. Falmouth, he said, could be a prime spot, perhaps at the vacant building, where Falmouth Ford on Dillingham Avenue once operated.

Beyond job growth, Mr. Rodgers said, the economic benefits will include increased business to ferry boat operators as well as hotels, rental property owners, and restaurants.

As proof of Cape Wind’s intentions, Mr. Rodgers said, four engineers from a major wind turbine manufacturer in Denmark visited Falmouth last week to determine its potential to accommodate a Cape Wind facility. “They validated our sense that Falmouth would be a suitable base of operations,” he said.

It would make sense for Cape Wind to be associated with Falmouth, particularly with its reputation for scientific excellence.

He also anticipated that if Cape Wind sites itself here, it would be a boon for tourism as those looking to erect similar offshore wind farms will visit Falmouth to conduct their research.

With these benefits, Mr. Rodgers told selectmen that at least one other Cape town has approached his firm to inquire about the possibility of Cape Wind locating there.

An endorsement from the board, he said, would go a long way with Cape Wind “and would be welcomed and appreciated.”

Selectman Carey M. Murphy refused to give such support, arguing that his board should not be voting on such a request because it was never properly posted.

He also said the economic benefits have to be weighed against the costs of the project, referencing the fact that the taxpayers of Massachusetts and New England will have to bear the brunt of this project. “This is for profit. You aren’t doing this for charity,” he said.

Several times other board members tried to cut Mr. Murphy off, as Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Mary (Pat) Flynn had initially instructed her colleagues that this was not a discussion of “why we should have a wind farm, or why we should not have a wind farm.”

“This is off-topic,” Selectman Brent V.W. Putnam said at one point.

However, Mr. Murphy said the high costs to produce the electricity, which will be paid by the taxpayers, need to be talked about. He said it was unfair to simply pass this project off as a positive, one that will create jobs, without considering the negatives.

“We are not going to discuss that tonight,” Ms. Flynn said. “The facility will be somewhere on Cape Cod, and we will still be paying those rates. Why not have it here?”

Selectman Ahmed A. Mustafa said what was most important is the positive impacts these jobs would have on the local economy.

If Falmouth becomes the home of Cape Wind, Selectman Melissa C. Freitag said, it could lead to similar clean energy companies landing here, as well.

Urging selectmen to look to the vision and not the view, William W. Eddy of Little Lane, Waquoit, began by talking about his three-masted schooner he has been repairing over the past year. During that time, he has given business to, among others, Falmouth Lumber, Sherwin-Williams, Auto Zone, Green Pond Marina, FedEx, Kenyon’s Market, and the Town of Falmouth as part of that project.

If this small project can impact the local economy in such a way, Mr. Eddy said, “imagine what 100 turbines will do over the course of 50 to 100 years.”

Yet, not all were enthusiastic about the wind farm. Lifelong resident David R. Moriarty of Lower Road, West Falmouth, complained that this project will be another blight on the Cape landscape.

He also asked how local fishermen will be compensated for the impact the turbines will have on their ability to do their jobs. “What will you do for all the displaced workers who will be out of work there?” he asked.

“Mr. Moriarty, your question is out of line,” Mr. Mustafa interrupted.

Glenn G. Wattley, president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, suggested that while Mr. Rodgers has touted the number of jobs that will be created in Falmouth as an economic boom, “it is probably not enough.”

“You cannot just talk about one side of the ledger without talking about the other,” Mr. Murphy said, reiterating his stance.

Yet, Mr. Putnam reminded him that selectmen were not there to approve a permit for the wind farm. He said the board had a chance to express support for Cape Wind’s potential move into Falmouth or they could prefer it go someplace else.

He chided Mr. Murphy for dismissing the potential to not only improve, but diversify the economy. “Do we bring the jobs here or let them go someplace else?” he said. “I say, ‘Bring them here.’ ”

Selectmen agreed with that notion, with four voting in favor, and Mr. Murphy electing to abstain from the vote.