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FAA SpaceX report reveals plans for more industrial development at Boca Chica Beach

7 months 3 weeks 1 day ago Friday, February 26 2021 Feb 26, 2021 February 26, 2021 11:36 PM February 26, 2021 in News - Local

SpaceX is currently in the middle of an environmental review by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). 

When companies need federal permits or federal funding they need to undergo a review and SpaceX has decided it has more plans for Boca Chica Beach.

President of the Friends of Wildlife Corridor Jim Chapman said SpaceX seems to be constantly changing its plans. 

A couple years ago the site was no more than a chain link fence and a mound of dirt. In those day, the plan was to make the Boca Chica a rocket launch site for its existing Falcon Models. 

But over time the plans for a launch site turned into plans for a rocket test site. 

Chapman said environmentally speaking, Boca Chica is a "bad place to be testing rockets."

He obtained a draft copy of the environmental analysis the FAA is conducting now. 

In the draft the agency pointed out that SpaceX wants to build five natural gas wells, a desalination plant, additional solar power facilities and a natural gas turbine. 

Since that analysis is still in draft form, the FAA said it "should not be relied on as authoritative" and that it is "in its very early stages of development."

But Chapman said it's still enough to understand what SpaceX wants to do. He's concerned the assessment needs to be turned into a more comprehensive review called an "environmental impact statement."

"It's just one more reason why this should not be an environmental assessment," Chapman said. "Natural gas wells... purifying it and liquifying it and storing it. That's major."

The SpaceX South Texas launch site is surrounded by protected wildlife properties on all side. 

The FAA is asking agencies like the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to weigh in as well.

In an unreleased response to the FAA from the Texas Parks and Wildlife, the agency pointed out the environmental impact to species in the area. 

Endangered species that once or currently inhabit that area include the Ocelot, Kemp's ridley sea turtle and the Aplomado falcon.

Another point of concern is how often State Highway 4 is being closed down for rocket tests. 

According to the FAA, SpaceX only has permission to close down the road for 180 hours a year. 

But the American Bird Conservancy, a nonprofit organization focused on the conserving native birds and their natural habitats, said they counted 1200 hours of closures— over 110 days. 

"In 2019 and 2020, they went way, way over that," Chapman said. "Essentially, the public is losing access."

Channel 5 reached out to SpaceX for a comment but the company has not responded. 

The company is moving forward with its launch schedule, with road closures and test fires this week. The launch attempt of the Starship SN10 is expected to come soon.

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