The long-awaited draft of the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) on the 4,000-acre Spaceport Camden site was released this week.
The Camden County government spent approximately $2 million for the draft EIS which is part of the final process for Spaceport Camden to obtain a Launch Site Operators license by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
“Today is a historic day for Camden County,” said Steve Howard, Camden County Administrator and Spaceport Camden project lead. “We believe we are the only local government in the country to embark on an EIS for a vertical launch site, and it is a testament to the vision of the Board of County Commissioners and to the citizens of Camden County who supported us through this process.”
The draft EIS is also an important feat for launch operators looking to locate to Camden County. “Launch operators need more launch sites, and Camden County has one of the best locations on the east coast. We are excited to see the FAA’s review of Spaceport Camden move forward,” said Alex Rodriguez, Vice President, Government & External Affairs for Vector. “Vector was the first company to launch a low altitude suborbital test from Spaceport Camden and we intend to be the first to launch an orbital rocket from Spaceport Camden.”
The purpose of the EIS evaluates the potential environmental impacts that may result from FAA’s proposed action of issuing a Launch Site Operator License to the Camden County Board of Commissioners. The license would allow the County to offer the commercial space launch site, Spaceport Camden, to commercial launch operators to conduct launches of liquid-fueled, small to medium-large lift-class, orbital and suborbital vertical launch vehicles.
If the FAA approves the license, the operation of the Spaceport would include up to 12 vertical launches and up to 12 associated launch vehicle first-stage landings per year; in support of the launches, there would be up to 12 wet dress rehearsals and up to 12 static fire engine tests per year.
Public access in the vicinity of facilities will be restricted during all forms of launches and testing of engines. Public notification will be sent prior to any launches by Spaceport Camden in various locations, in advertisements, and local news outlets.
There is expected to be limited public access during launches along pre-defined areas on Harriett’s Bluff/Union Carbide Road in addition to securing checkpoints on Cumberland Island and Satilla River/Andrews Sound areas. The nominal length of a closure to these areas during a launch could be up to 4-6 hours but closure could last up to 12 hours. Securing checkpoints during launches will be coordinated with the Camden County Sheriff’s Office.
Overall environmental impacts:
According to the EIS, there would be no impacts to the coastal barrier resources, no unacceptable risks to human safety or property, and no adverse impacts to the coastal environment that cannot be satisfactorily mitigated. Also, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) certifies that the spaceport project is consistent with the state’s Coastal Management Program and are still reviewing the consistency of certification. The final results from the DNR will be included in the Final EIS, and no significant impacts on coastal resources are expected.
In Chapter 5 of the draft EIS on Cumulative Impacts on the environment, all areas of the study report there will not be significant cumulative impacts to the environment, but there would be some adverse biological impacts. However, those cumulative biological impacts on resources are not expected to be significant. The FAA recommends that Spaceport Camden hire a biologist to monitor the biological impacts and implement local conservation efforts to reduce environmental impact on diverse species.
What about Cumberland Island and Little Cumberland Island?
Many opponents of the spaceport project are concerned about the safety of the residents on the island as well as their property. In the EIS “authorized persons” (residents, vacation homeowners, campers, Park Service Personnel), who wish to leave the area on Cumberland Island or Little Cumberland Island for any launch, can do so. Spaceport Camden may facilitate transportation to and from their authorized locations on the day of the launch, according to the draft EIS.
Length of construction:
If all processes are approved through the FAA, construction of all facilities will occur at the same time, and completion is expected to take 15 months.
There will be public hearings on the draft EIS by the FAA. The public hearings are scheduled to take place on April 11 and 12, 2018, at the Camden County Public Services Authority Recreation Center located at 1050 Wildcat Drive in Kingsland.
Hearings are scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. with an open house and poster session, a formal presentation running from 6:30 p.m. to 6:50 p.m., and a formal commenting period from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Public comments can be sent to FAACamdenSpaceportEIS@Leidos.com or by to Ms. Stacey M. Zee, Environmental Specialist, Federal Aviation Administration, c/o Leidos, 2109 Air Park Road SE, Suite 200, Albuquerque, NM 87106. Public comments end on May 7, 2018.
The Draft EIS and more information about public involvement may be found at the FAA website: https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/environmental/nepa_docs/review/doc uments_progress/.
Steps in the process are as follows –
Opportunities for public participation occur during public comments on the draft EIS.