By CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN, Associated Press
Updated 2:33 pm, Tuesday, April 16, 2013
The draft environmental impact statement released Monday by the Federal Aviation Administration is an important factor in California-based SpaceX's pursuit of the site near where the
empties into the Gulf of Mexico. The final
report is a necessary precursor to the FAA issuing licenses allowing SpaceX to
launch rockets there, but not a guarantee they will issue them. Florida, Georgia
and Puerto Rico also are competing for
site is less than three miles from the U.S.-Mexico border and is bordered on
three sides by state park land that's managed by the federal government as part
of the Lower
Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. It's just a short sandy walk to
Texas . Boca Chica Beach
SpaceX, run by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk, currently launches most of its rockets from
Florida's Cape Canaveral, but it's looking for additional launch
capacity. Without space shuttles, NASA is relying on private companies such as
SpaceX, whose Dragon capsule made its second successful trip to the International
Space Station last month.
Gilbert Salinas, vice president for the Brownsville Economic Development Council, which has been courting the project, said he "anticipated some very good, positive feedback with some small risks to the project that could be mitigated."
A public meeting to take input on the draft report is scheduled for May 7 in
The report acknowledged the project likely will "adversely affect" some endangered species, including the piping plover, northern aplomado falcon, jaguarundi, ocelot, and sea turtles. But it lists several steps SpaceX could take to lessen those damages.
Among them are conducting pre- and post-launch surveys for the birds and avoiding launches at dusk and dawn, the most active times for the cats. It also suggests avoiding night launches during turtle nesting season.
The report said development for the launch site would occur within 20 acres of the 56-acre site.
"It's important to note that SpaceX is very experienced in ensuring that our sites have a minimal environmental impact," said Christina Ra, SpaceX's Director of Communications, in an email last month. "Almost all launch sites (including SpaceX's launch sites at Vandenberg Air Force Base and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station) are on environmental preserves or habitats. This provides general isolation for both the launch site and the preserve."
But there are significant differences.
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/news/texas/article/Draft-report-studies-impacts-of-Texas-launch-site-4438198.php#ixzz2QjLWpPEG