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United States

More twists and turns off Cape Cod -- The saga goes on

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The soap opera of the Cape Wind project, a 468 MW wind station proposed for a site off the north-east coast of America, has taken another plot twist. The state of Massachusetts is laying claim to some of the coastal waters where the project would be built. Meantime, project opponents suffered a setback when federal courts reaffirmed the authority of the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) over the project.

xIn the boundary case, Massachusetts officials filed a proposal to officially expand the state's borders by claiming four small rock outcroppings near the proposed site. Coastal states can extend their authority to include any rocks that are exposed at median tide. A state's border extends three miles beyond any such physical element. Extending the border to the rocks would give Massachusetts more standing in decision making, including whether to allow the project at that location at all.

xIn a mixed decision, the US Minerals Management Service, the agency of authority over the boundary, accepted three of the new claims, but rejected one outcropping. The expansion of the state boundary increases Massachusetts by 3035 hectares, all of which is within the project and could affect eight to ten turbines out of a proposed 130.

xCape Wind's developer is not unduly concerned. "It has minimal impact," says the company's Mark Rodgers. "We're evaluating our options. We could possibly relocate those turbines to other areas of Horseshoe Shoals that are in federal waters."

xCape Wind can also breathe easy about its meteorological data collection tower in Nantucket Sound, which was permitted by USACE. The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has upheld USACE's authority to permit the tower.

xMeantime, public comment closed in February on the USACE draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Cape Wind project, a comprehensive study of effects on the environment, bird migration, energy security and navigation. Support for the project has been voiced by several influential environmental and business groups. Joining their ranks last month was the League of Women Voters of the Cape Cod Area, which decided to support the project after visits to a series of wind facilities, among them an offshore wind farm in Denmark, reports the Providence Journal. "This is the only Cape Cod group to have undertaken extensive research of the project before deciding on it," says the newspaper.

xUSACE is expected to make its final decision by late summer. The saga is likely to continue beyond that date, however. Massachusetts officials have promised to take the battle to the courts if the USACE approves the $770 million project. The Cape Wind project -- first proposed nearly three years ago -- has faced intense opposition. It has undergone several revisions, but currently calls for 130 turbines.

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