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Proposed New Launch Site Debated at College Hearing
February 12, 2014 - Several hundred people turned out at Eastern Florida State College’s Titusville campus for a public hearing Wednesday on Space Florida’s controversial proposal to build a commercial space launch site straddling the Brevard-Volusia county line in the old citrus town of Shiloh.
The hearing was held by the Federal Aviation Administration, which must issue a Launch Site Operator License before the facility could be built and operated. It followed another hearing Tuesday in New Smyrna Beach.
Space Florida is proposing the 200-acre site within the boundaries of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center but north of the former space shuttle launch pads.
To that end, the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement to evaluate the potential impacts of constructing and operating the Shiloh Launch Complex, as well as two off-site operations support areas.
The study will assess construction and operation of vertical launch facilities and associated space vehicle processing, launch, and recovery operations for medium- to heavy-lift class orbital and suborbital launch vehicles.
Wednesday’s hearing drew both supporters and opponents of the project.
Space Florida requested use of the land in 2012, saying it’s crucial in helping the state recapture the commercial payload market that went overseas years ago.
Florida officials maintain that a site separate from the commercial launch pads at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is necessary to avoid future NASA missions and national security requirements that could impede a smooth flow of launches.
Each proposed launch site would accommodate up to 12 launches per year and 12 additional static fire engine tests. Each would require about 30 acres of fenced land for a launch pad, propellant storage and handling areas, storage tanks, deluge water systems and other launch-related facilities.
Titusville resident J.B. Kump, who supports the proposal, asked that the land in question be used for its original intent: space.
“We have asked our commercial launch industry to do more in launching what our needs are in space,” he said. “We need to give them the capability of launching in an area that they can control that doesn’t compete with national security issues, that isn’t judged by the priorities of a NASA launch schedule.
“We have proven that we can launch and we can co-exist with the environment. We can do it and we can do it safely to human life and to the life of our endangered species. The question is how do we balance this out? It’s great that we can have time to recreate out here. But we’ve got to balance priorities. As a nation we need commercial launch.”
However, strong opposition came from environmentalists who say they want to preserve vital scrub habitat and protect federally and state listed endangered or threatened species.
Charles Lee of the Audubon Society took issue with possible closures of the Canaveral National Seashore and Mosquito Lagoon area of the proposed launch site and the effects on tourism.
“We have documented over 1.2 million visitors to these areas, over 200,000 boating trips for sport fishing purposes to Mosquito Lagoon. You need to consider . . . realistic times for effecting the logistics of closure of these areas, particularly Mosquito Lagoon.
“When you look at a closure time you . . . when you look at 24 launches, you look at 24 static tests . . . figuratively you are looking at . . . the potential is high that we are talking months, months, several months of collective time that the refuge and particularly Mosquito Lagoon would be closed. We think that is an unacceptable impact.”
Historians also stood against the complex, saying a 250-year-old slave plantation dubbed one of North America’s most significant historical sites along with scattered Indian mounds and early settlers’ graves could be damaged and put off-limits for future research and discoveries.
"It's like those people never existed," history buff Bob Gross said citing historical sites "obliterated" by federal government take over of Brevard County land. "We the people demand 'no Shiloh."
Persons wishing to submit written comments on the proposal must submit them before Feb. 21 to Stacey Zee, environmental specialist, Shiloh EIS care of Cardno TEC Inc. 2496 Old Ivy Road, Suite 300, Charlottesville, VA 22903. Comments also may be emailed to email@example.com.