The National Park Service said the 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.
The Wampanoag — the tribe welcomed the Pilgrims in the 17th century and is known as "the people of the first light" — practice sacred rituals requiring an unblocked view of the sunrise. That view won't exist if the Cape Wind project's 130 turbines, each over 400 feet tall, are built several miles from the Cape Cod shore across a 25-square-mile swath of federal waters. The turbines would be visible to Wampanoag in Mashpee and on Martha's Vineyard.
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.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who must still sign off on a federal permit before the project can move forward, said Monday he was beginning a final review of the project.
"America's vast offshore wind resources offer exciting potential for our clean energy economy and for our nation's efforts to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," said Salazar. "But as we begin to develop these resources, we must ensure that we are doing so in the right way and in the right places."
Salazar said he would bring interested parties together next week to discuss ways to "minimize and mitigate Cape Wind's potential impacts on