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US wind farm decision due in April

A nine-year public battle over controversial plans for a wind farm off Cape Cod in the United States could be nearing an end.

US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said a decision over plans for 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound, each over 120m tall, will be made by the end of April.

The project would be located several kilometres from the Cape Cod shore, across a 25-square-mile swath of federal waters.

“To have it continuing to face a future of uncertainty is bad for everybody that is involved. … We are moving it forward with clarity,” Salazar said at a news conference after the meetings.

Opponents say it would be a hazard to aviation, harm the environment and mar historic vistas. Supporters say the project will provide cheaper energy, reduce pollution and create green jobs.

Cape Wind president Jim Gordon said: “This gives the Obama administration and Secretary Salazar the opportunity to move this project forward and jump start the offshore wind industry in the United States.”

A major hurdle remaining is finding a way to protect Indian tribes’ spiritual traditions amid the construction of the turbines.

The National Park Service recently decided Nantucket Sound is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places as a significant traditional cultural, historic and archaeological property. The Mashpee and Aquinnah Wampanoag tribes say the designation, which would come with new regulations for activity on the sound, is needed to preserve the tribe’s sacred rituals.

Tribal rituals, including dancing and chanting, take place at secret sacred sites around the sound at various times, such as the summer and winter solstices and when an elder passes. The tribes also say their ancestors’ remains are buried on Horseshoe Shoal, where the turbines would be built.

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