An environmental impact study released last week by the Federal Aviation Administration moved Georgia, and specifically Camden County, closer to becoming the next space state.

The study recommended allowing as many as 12 launches per year from the proposed Spaceport Camden, an idea that has been in the works for years now, but just took a massive step forward.

The upside is the possibility that commercial rockets could begin launching from right here in Coastal Georgia, brining with them some well-paying and high-tech jobs. The commercial space industry is growing and we are poised to become a part of it.

The downside is that the north end of Cumberland Island National Seashore is in the possible trajectory area, meaning that area would have to close to the public during launches. It seems unfortunate that people’s visits to the island could be interrupted because of a private commercial interest.

But there may be a bright side for Cumberland Island as well. Should the launches actually begin taking place, Cumberland may be the best place to view them, prompting more day and camping trips to other parts of the island on those days. Launches could actually increase tourism there, and in Kingsland and St. Marys. Launches always draw a crowd.

While the step forward taken last week was large, there is still a lot to do before any launches actually happen.

While we like the idea of a new, high-tech industry settling in the area, there is still a lot that remains to be seen about how the spaceport and its launches will impact folks who live near the area. So far, only a smaller, suborbital test launch has taken place at the site. Its impacts appeared to be minimal, but if larger, more robust rockets begin launching, the noise and vibrations could be detrimental to people living on or around Harriett’s Bluff, for example.

If you want to give your opinion on the spaceport, you have your chance at two public hearings scheduled for 5:30-8:30 p.m. on April 11 and 12 at the Camden County Recreation Center Community Room, 1050 Wildcat Drive in Kingsland.

The FAA will also accept comments through May 7. They can be mailed to Stacey M. Zee, c/o elides, 2109 Air Park Road SE, Suite 200, Albuquerque, NM 87106.

Copies of the study are available at libraries in Woodbine, Brunswick and on St. Simons Island.

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