When Spaceport Camden was first proposed in 2014, county residents were excited about the prospect of rocket launches, high tech jobs and a boost in tourism.
Then the public learned launches would have to cross over Coastal Georgia barrier islands in most trajectories. And people began expressing concerns about failed launches exploding over their homes, damaging fragile wetlands surrounding the launch site or causing wildfires if a rocket were to explode over Cumberland or Little Cumberland islands.
Despite objections by a majority of people who responded during a public comment period, the Federal Aviation Administration released a favorable Final Environmental Impact Statement for the spaceport last week, conceivably paving the way for approval of a launch site license.
Opponents remain hopeful that a launch will never happen despite the FAA’s ruling. While it’s expected there will be legal challenges to the FAA’s ruling, some Camden County residents are taking a different approach.
A petition being circulated already has the signatures of more than 3,000 residents asking for a referendum to let the voters decide whether to go forward with the planned spaceport. They need 4,100 signatures — 10 percent of the county’s registered voters — which organizers expect to have within a few weeks.
It will be presented to the Camden County Probate Court judge, who will be required by state law to hold a special election where voters will be asked to repeal the county’s decision to buy the Union Carbide property where launches would be conducted.
The environmental organization One Hundred Miles has taken over the petition drive, said Megan Desrosiers, the organization’s president and CEO.
“When COVID prevented people from gathering, One Hundred Miles took over the distribution of the petition,” she said. “Since last summer, we’ve been mailing the petition out in batches to registered voters in Camden County.”
Desrosiers said opposition to the spaceport has “grown tremendously” over the years. Many residents are frustrated over the more than $10 million spent so far by county commissioners, she said.
“They don’t hold votes about the project in the public, they don’t put information about the spaceport in the budget, and they haven’t even done a true Environmental Impact Statement,” she said. “The county has never even held a public hearing about the project. Yet they continue to spend millions of dollars. People are really mad.”
Once the petition is presented, the judge will have 60 days to validate the signatures. The judge then has to set a date for a special election within 60 to 90 days.
“In other words, if we turn the petition in this summer, the special election would be before the end of the year so long as Camden County doesn’t try to file a legal challenge,” she said.
Desrosiers believes there is enough opposition to kill the project.
“The voters have had enough,” she said. “Residents are asking the county for basic services that the county can’t afford because they are spending so much money on the spaceport. The commissioners need to pay attention to the nearly 10% of the voters that have signed this petition and pull the plug on Spaceport Camden.”
Go to spaceportpetition.org to print, sign and mail the petition to One Hundred Miles.