Editorial: Let's not hinder Deepwater data collection

Mon, 03/02/2009 - 1:00am

02/28/09 - Deepwater Wind will hold an information session tomorrow about its plan to erect a meteorological data tower at the entrance to the Great Salt Pond. It’s at 12:30 p.m. in the Community Center.

Some protest has arisen from Cormorant Cove; not vigorous protest, one hopes. Folks who are paying the highest electricity rate in the United States are not in a position to cavil. Any glimmer of hope for relief should be nurtured.

It’s hard to say how hopeful we should be about the Deepwater project to place wind turbines south of the island, a substation on the island and a cable to the mainland. What we do know is that if it all works out, our electricity costs should plummet.

But the company is moving forward with dispatch. It signed an agreement with the state in January, has placed a radar unit at the Southeast Lighthouse to gather data about birds and will soon install bat monitoring devices on the tower at the police station.

Next step, a slim 180-foot tube, about a foot wide, with anemometers to measure wind speeds. It needs to be up about 18 months.

Predictably, there’s a protest. The tower “will be clearly visible from my property and will certainly negatively impact the value of my property,” wrote one neighbor to the Town Council.

How many others would veto the tower for that reason? If it becomes apparent that this is where the tower really ought to be, would they still veto it?

This is temporary, for goodness sakes.

Another kind of protest: Deepwater is asking, at the council’s suggestion, for a special temporary permit. But that kind of permit is to be used only to meet an urgent need for public health and safety, and only for a year. Does this project qualify? Several council members seem to think it does.

The alternative would be an ordinary special use permit, a process that takes longer, with requirements for notifying neighbors, holding hearings and all that. Could the process be expedited, with emergency meetings and the like, so the permit is ready when Deepwater is ready?

This is not an idle matter. The process for doing public business has been developed over much time and with much experience; good decisions require good process. The good decision here, however reached, is to smooth the way for Deepwater to gather the data it needs.