Monday August 31, 2009 Cape Cod
A Clean Power Now sign sprouts up along the presidential motorcade route near Alley's General Store about a mile from the president's rental vacation home on Martha's Vineyard.
Cape Cod Times/Steve HeaslipBy Patrick Cassidy
August 30, 2009As President Barack Obama and his family flew from Cape Cod to Martha's Vineyard earlier this week, he may have looked to the east upon the water above Horseshoe Shoal. Depending on Marine One's flight path, he might have even glimpsed the data collection tower installed there by Cape Wind Associates.
For Obama, the island visit will have been the closest he has come since being elected to one of the most ferocious debates to rage across the Cape and Islands in the past decade.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to issue a "Record of Decision" approving or rejecting the projectCape Wind must secure financial backing and likely a long-term contract to sell electricity from the wind farmPending and expected lawsuits
As the man likely to decide the fate of the proposed wind farm, and having championed a new era of environmentally friendly energy production, the 44th president would have been hard-pressed during his week-long vacation to escape some inkling of the argument over Cape Wind.
While the death Tuesday of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, whose nearly half century of service in the U.S. Senate included vocal opposition to the project planned for his favorite sailing grounds, certainly eliminates one of the most powerful voices in the fracas, other pressures on the president were evident during his stay.
"President Obama, welcome to the beautiful waters of Cape Cod and the Islands!" began a radio advertisement sponsored by the anti-Cape Wind group, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.
The ad, which was aired on WMVY throughout the week and on Cape stations over the weekend, praised the president for federal ocean zoning efforts and called on him to deny Cape Wind's proposal.
"We appreciate the opportunity that he can experience firsthand why Nantucket Sound deserves to be protected," alliance executive director and chief operating officer Audra Parker said this week.
Obama took office only days after the previous administration issued a largely favorable environmental report on Cape Wind. Since that time Obama has called for sweeping changes in the production of renewable energy, including offshore projects, but has held off on final federal approval of the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm.
The largest remaining federal regulatory hurdle is a historic review of the project that has become bogged down amid strenuous objections by the Wampanoag Indian tribes on the Cape and the Vineyard.
Beyond the radio ad, Cape Wind opponents on the island requested more signs, flyers and bumper stickers to visually prod the president, Parker said. Although she did not know anyone likely to get a face-to-face chat with the president about the project, the first family would likely "encounter a great deal of opposition to Cape Wind," in their daily interactions with islanders, Parker said.
Cape Wind did not attempt to sway Obama between tee times, company spokesman Mark Rodgers said.
The release before the Obamas' arrival of data showing the amount of energy the wind farm would have generated at the peak of New England's electricity demand — 300 megawatts or 71 percent of the project's total capacity, according to Cape Wind — was coincidental to their visit, Rodgers said.
If he had run into Obama on the links or while buying salt water taffy, Rodgers said he would ask the president to imagine the day when the first offshore wind farm in the U.S. could provide 75 percent of all the electricity needs of the Cape and islands.
The pro-Cape Wind group, Clean Power Now, focused its efforts on the national press corps visiting with the president.
In a release sent to news organizations, the group offers to provide background, experts, local perspective and a tour of Horseshoe Shoal where the wind turbines would be built.
"It is a local issue with national significance," Clean Power Now executive director Barbara Hill said.
Hill traveled to the Vineyard Wednesday to meet with members of the press interested in the Cape Wind story, she said.
Otherwise the organization relied on members on the island to sport pro-Cape Wind buttons and let the president know how they feel about the project if they interacted with him, Hill said.
As the president made his way to Aquinnah for a bike ride and tour of the Gay Head Lighthouse, he could not have missed the opinion of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head. Posted on State Road at the entrance to the tribe's headquarters are two large signs protesting Cape Wind, said Bettina Washington, historic preservation officer for the Aquinnah tribe.
"He had to ride by it twice," she said.
The tribe extended an invitation to the president to visit, but it was declined, Washington said.
While she understood that he was on vacation, the country's first black president missed a great opportunity to learn about the first people to inhabit the country, especially for his two young daughters, she said.
Hopefully the visit will have given the president a better understanding of why the tribe believes the sound is not the right location for a wind farm, Washington said.
EDITORIAL FOOTNOTE: The President of the United States was on vacation.
He couldn't take time out to talk to the Wampanoags? Why not?
He could have scheduled an appointment to in Washington, D. C. to discuss the tribe's concerns. Is that asking too much?
Is this the way he is going to treat issues of Native Americans? Hopefully he just didn't think. Mayve it was a mistake, on his part. What do you think?