The U.S. Interior Department hopes to reach an agreement by March 1 over the controversial and long-delayed Cape Wind power project that would be located in federal waters off Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
Approval of the offshore wind farm would be a big boost to the Obama administration's plan to increase U.S. renewable energy production and create advance-technology jobs, while a defeat of the project could undermine White House efforts to develop a clean energy economy.
The Interior Department wants to meet with representatives of the Massachusetts historic preservation office, which is siding with the Native American tribes that want to block the project, along with Cape Wind's operators and the National Park Service's historic listing director.
A department representative said Monday it was still unclear if representatives of the native tribes that sued to block the project would be invited to next week's meeting. Their status may be affected by the lawsuit, he said.
"I am hopeful that an agreement among the parties can be reached by March 1," U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement. "If an agreement among the parties can't be reached, I will be prepared to take the steps necessary to bring the permit process to conclusion."
The Cape Wind project in 2001 became the country's first major proposed offshore wind farm. Its developers, Cape Wind Associates, aim to construct 130 towers, which will soar 440 feet above the surface of the Nantucket Sound.
The proposed $1 billion wind farm would provide electricity to about 400,000 homes, but would be within view of popular Cape Cod resorts and homes, prompting serious opposition from business leaders and politicians.
The tall turbines would be arranged in a grid pattern in 25 square miles of Nantucket Sound, just offshore of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Island.
If there is a not a deal by March 1, a department spokesman said Salazar would consult with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, an independent group created by Congress that on which the Interior Department has a seat. Salazar would then make a final decision on the project based on the panel's recommendation.