February 28, 2010
A million-dollar offer by Cape Wind Associates LLC to each of the Indian tribes fighting the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm has been declined.
“A financial offer was made to our tribe and it was rejected,” the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s chairman, Cedric Cromwell, said in a statement e-mailed to the Times. “This issue has never been about money for us.”
The offer, which sources say was for $50,000 a year for 20 years, comes as negotiations wind down between the wind energy developer, the Mashpee tribe and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) over the impact of Cape Wind’s plan to build 130 turbines in the Sound.
“Culturally speaking, the offer was never acceptable,” Bettina Washington, the Aquinnah tribe’s historic preservation officer, said yesterday. “We would not consider selling our cultural landscape.”
The tribes contend the turbines would be built in an area submerged beneath the Sound where their ancestors once lived. They also argue an important sunrise ceremony would be disrupted by the 440-foot-tall turbines.
In January, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who visited the Cape and Vineyard earlier this month to meet with the tribes and view the proposed site of the project, said he would make a decision on whether to approve a federal permit for Cape Wind by April if the negotiations between the company and the tribes did not yield a compromise by tomorrow. An announcement from Salazar’s office on what happens next is expected tomorrow.
Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers said a “financial mitigation” offer was made to the tribes but he would not confirm the amount of money. “Cape Wind proceeded as constructively as possible with other parties in the spirit of working together and we’ll find out on Monday from the secretary’s office what, if anything, they were able to arrange,” Rodgers said.
Tomorrow also marks a self-imposed deadline for an update by Cape Wind and National Grid on negotiations for the utility to buy power from the project. There will be no announcement regarding those negotiations, Rodgers said, adding the talks are “ongoing.”
The town of Barnstable and the primary anti-Cape Wind group, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, have argued for an alternative location for the project south of Tuckernuck Island off Nantucket. That site has been studied and dismissed as impractical, according to Cape Wind. And the Aquinnah tribe has not fully endorsed the alternate location, saying the site must be studied to ensure it would not unduly damage ancient lands significant to the tribe.
In a letter sent Feb. 9 to Salazar, Jeffrey Madison, a former member of the Aquinnah’s tribal council, wrote the contention of his fellow tribe members that the turbines would disrupt important ceremonies was unfounded.
Madison, who included with his letter a petition signed by eight other tribe members, is an attorney with the law firm Wynn and Wynn, which was hired by Cape Wind more than a month ago to advise the company on Indian affairs. Madison did not reply to a telephone message left at Wynn and Wynn or an e-mail sent to him yesterday seeking comment. A home phone number for Madison is disconnected.
Audra Parker, president and CEO of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, blasted Cape Wind’s monetary offer to the tribes. “Cape Wind can’t pay off the Native Americans to compensate for irreversible impacts to sacred land,” she said yesterday.
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