The tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico is the most compelling reason yet to reconsider construction of an offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound.
IT WAS ONE OF THE SUMMER’S best-attended social gatherings on Martha’s Vineyard, and there was not a Lilly Pulitzer dress or a pair of Nantucket Reds in the room. No talk of the Edgartown Yacht Club’s annual ’Round the Island Race, nothing about who might host the vacationing Obamas for dinner.
It was late July, and guests came to Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury in jeans and T-shirts, toting three-bean salads, shellfish, and fresh vegetables, all the fixings for a potluck supper and memorial service to bid farewell to Tom “the Codfather” Osmers, a man whose life gave lie to the conventional wisdom about the kind of people who oppose the giant wind energy plant planned for Nantucket Sound.
For years opponents of the proposal to build 130 wind turbines across more than 24 square miles of Horseshoe Shoal have been mocked as wealthy second-home owners, people more interested in protecting their ocean views than in combating global warming. It’s a caricature that has been surprisingly effective, reducing anyone who questions the wisdom of erecting 440-foot towers in the path of birds, whales, and commercial fishing boats to a pampered elitist, indifferent to the environmental threat of fossil fuels so dramatically on display in the Gulf of Mexico.
But Tom Osmers was not a rich man. He was the West Tisbury shellfish constable, and more than anything, his life was about protecting his corner of the world. Last year Osmers and some of his colleagues — men and women whose ocean views
come off the decks of draggers and charter boats and fishing vessels — founded the Martha’s Vineyard/Dukes County Fishermen’s Association.
In June the group filed a suit in federal court challenging the U.S. Interior Department’s April decision to approve Cape Wind, arguing that the project will destroy their livelihood. Far from being indifferent to the dangers on display in the gulf, the fishermen see the episode as a cautionary tale, one that’s as applicable to a wind farm as it is to deepwater oil drilling — and the most compelling reason yet to scuttle construction of Cape Wind. “When we look at what’s happening in the gulf, we see fishermen like us, out of work because they built first and worried about the consequences later,” says Michele Jones of the Fishermen’s Association. “Cape Wind says we have nothing to worry about. I’m sure that’s what BP said, too.”