By AARIN HARTWELL
Special to the PRESS
Boca Chica Beach is among the top contingents of the first ever, commercial rocket launch site in the world only five miles south of South Padre. Brownsville Economic Development Council member Lizzy De La Garza presented on behalf of Space X Thursday, Add MediaMay 1st at South Padre Island City Hall.
According to De La Garza, the BEDC has given close to 150 presentations in the area.
“We have been actively involved in educating the communities around the potential launch site about the benefits and concerns of Space X,” said De La Garza.
SPI Mayor Bob Pinkerton stated his support for the project pending the information in the environmental impact study (EIS). Rob Nixon, Chairman of the Surfrider Foundation South Texas also awaits the study from the FAA.
“Environmentally we are concerned with the destruction of habitat (approximately .70 acres). This does seem minimal, but there is no doubt that if the Vertical Launch Site is successful the facility will expand to accommodate more launches. In addition, the storage of fuels and toxic chemicals and the possibility of contamination of the surrounding wetlands and tidal flats is always a concern,” said Nixon.
According to De La Garza’s presentation, Space X will have no significant impact on farmland, coastal resources, air quality, surface or ground water, or hazardous materials. Space X has agreed to allow Sea Turtle Inc., to conduct private sweeps for turtles during the closure time frame and wishes to organize cleanups in the Boca Chica area as well participate in the Adopt-A-Beach program in the area.
According to De La Garza, the most general concerns are in regard to the environmental impacts and the closure of the beach.
“There is a lot of misinformation about the closure of the beach. We are trying to share the facts so we can educate people on the ways wildlife and technology can co-exist,” said De La Garza.
Representative Rene Oliveira is currently working to amend the Texas Open Beaches Act (HB 2623) so to allow temporary closure for the Space X Launch site.
According to J.J. Garza, Chief of Staff of Representative of Rene Oliveira, Space X cannot set a primary launch date on a summer holiday or weekend but these dates can be used as a back-up launch date’s if permission is given from the GLO. The radius of the closure necessary is unknown.
“There are unknown variables that we should not address in statute because the solution we develop may not be what is necessary once the variables become known,“ said J.J. Garza, the Chief of Staff of Representative Rene Oliveira.
Nixon suggests the possibility of Space X’s expansion would inevitably mean a need for more launches.
“After talking with Surfrider members in Florida, I found out that Cape Canaveral was first promoted with the caveat that access to the point break there would always be open. Over time, access has been completely cut off for safety and National Security reasons. Is this the future for Boca Chica Beach?,” said Nixon.
Community member Dennis Barrett raised a question about the concern of the Boca Chica residents and village.
“I have a friend who has a house there and they are concerned. I’ve been helping them out by asking questions when they are unable to attend,” said Barrett.
Space X pointed out three historical properties on the beach that may suffer physical damage from vibrations. The surrounding Boca Chica Village residents would not be at risk due to their status “outside of the buffer zone,” said De La Garza.
De La Garza’s presentation on behalf of Space X boasts over 600 direct jobs in fields such as engineering and manufacturing and 400 indirect jobs in the areas of construction, logistics and tourism. The minimum salary would begin at $55,000.
The University of Texas at Brownsville and Space X will form a partnership for the use of the Space X as the Center for Advanced Radio Astronomy. UTB Students would be conducting astrophysics research and provide Space X with radio expertise.
“We are looking like we have a pretty good chance. The CEO has even publicly said he would like to be in Texas,” said De La Garza.
South Padre Island resident Gene Gore and his family are eager for the arrival of the Space X.
“My son want’s to be a pilot flying the F16 jets that enforce the no-fly zone during launches. Thanks to Space X for providing this dream for my child.”