KINGSLAND — The Federal Aviation Administration’s recommendation to allow as many as 12 launches a year from Camden Spaceport has drawn strong response from opponents and supporters.
The public got a chance Wednesday to voice their opinions at the first of two public hearings by the FAA in Kingsland to address the environmental impact statement that led to the recommendation to allow a commercial spaceport to be established. A second meeting will be held today from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Camden County Recreation Center gymnasium in Kingsland to discuss the issue.
The recommendation or “proposed action” would allow the launch of as many as 12 small to medium-large rockets a year from the proposed site, about 11.5 miles due east of Woodbine.
During the public comment period, there were no speakers who were undecided about their opinion.
Opponents such as Steve Weinkle said the environmental impact statement was flawed and fell far short of what is required by law.
Dick Parker, a property owner on Little Cumberland Island said the study misstated the facts about failure rates for rocket launches, which are anywhere from 2.5 percent to 6 percent.
Parker also questioned why residents, campers and National Park Service staff who live or stay in the launch safety zone are designated “authorized” people who can stay on the island during a launch.
David Kyler, director for the Center for a Sustainable Coast, said he was very disturbed by the environmental impact statement, which he said was filled with “lots of errors” and superficial analysis.
“This has got to be one of the worst ones I’ve ever seen,” he said
Atlanta lawyer Kevin Lang, whose family owns property on Little Cumberland Island, said the study doesn’t address the risks or impacts of a failed launch.
“The public needs to understand the risks of exploding rockets,” he said.
Lang showed a map of the area that could be impacted if a launch was aborted directly over Cumberland Island. It covered most of the national seashore.
“Our homes are being put directly at risk,” he said.
Another Little Cumberland property owner, Craig Root, said he supports a spaceport and agrees with the FAA’s recommendation.
“We’re not concerned about an unforeseeable risk,” he said.
State Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, said most Camden County residents support a spaceport. It’s the visitors and part-time residents who oppose the project by using the area’s natural beauty to “hinder development” in Camden County.
“We are a proud people who cherish our streams,” he said. “Georgia is ready to become a leader in space.”
Retired Vice Adm. Al Konetzni, a Camden County resident, former squadron commander at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, expressed his support for a spaceport.
“This is a lifetime opportunity for this area,” he said. “The youngsters in this community will have a future. This opportunity may never come again.”
Prior to the public comment period, FAA officials made a presentation to explain what they looked at for the environmental assessment.
Air quality, biological resources, climate, hazardous materials, noise, archaeological resources, farmlands and transportation were among the many areas studied to determine the impacts of a spaceport.
Camden County officials have worked nearly five years to get a launch site operator license from the FAA to create a commercial spaceport to meet the growing demand to send satellites into orbit.
If the proposed spaceport is approved, all launch vehicle operators would be required to apply for a license before conducting a launch. Up to 12 annual static fire engine tests and 12 wet-dress rehearsals would also be allowed.
The first stage of some vehicles could be landed at the site or on a barge 200 to 300 miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean. Barge landings 200 to 300 miles offshore would also be preferred, the study said.