Camden County launched a bid to establish a spaceport in January 2014, saying the project could create 2,500 jobs and an annual economic impact of more than $200 million.
Nearly seven years have passed since county officials announced those plans. The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to make a decision on a license to operate a spaceport in March, with no further public comment accepted.
The FAA made the timetable for the announcement in September. Camden County officials have spent more than $9 million on the project and are optimistic it will get FAA approval.
County officials in January modified its license application to launch only small rockets from the site, rather than the medium to large rockets originally envisioned.
Conservation groups responded in February by asking the FAA to order a revised Environmental Impact Statement since the application was modified substantially. Many critics say launches will never happen from the site at the end of Harriet’s Bluff Road, about 10 miles east of Interstate 95.
The main problem opponents have is the safety concerns about launch mishaps that could rain debris into environmentally sensitive marshes and waterways. Opponents say it is unsafe for rockets to fly over the homes and historic structures on Cumberland and Little Cumberland islands.
Opponents have maintained Camden County will never get the return on its investment, and they will likely struggle to find a launch provider for the site because the insurance to launch rockets over homes would be cost prohibitive.
In May, the FAA revised its timetable on the final decision as a result of the application changes made by county officials.
A proposed amendment that would have made changes to the National Environmental Policy Act that eliminated some of the environmental issues failed to make it out of committee.
A Georgia Southern University study of the economic impact released last fall estimated as many as 5,000 visitors would come to Camden County to watch a launch. With plans for as many as 12 launches a year, the economic impact to the region could be as high as $3.6 million per launch. Opponents dismissed the study, calling it misleading and inaccurate.