FAA Seeking Public Input on Spaceport
By Elva K. Osterreich, Alamogordo Daily News, N.M.
Aug. 6–After offering a lot of information during two hearings Tuesday, Federal Aviation Administration officials had a single public comment offered about Spaceport America.
Stacey Zee, FAA environmental specialist, talked about what the FAA’s role in the spaceport project is. The agency is completing an environmental impact study, the final stage of which is to gather public comment.
Once the EIS is completed, the FAA can move into its final approval of the spaceport.
“New Mexico Spaceport Authority proposes to develop and operate a commercial launch site in Sierra County,” Zee said. “To operate the site, NMSA must obtain a launch site operator license from the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation.”
The environmental review is the final step of the application approval process, she said. First are a policy review, site location review and safety review.
Now, under the national Environmental Policy Act, the FAA has to look at potential environmental impacts associated with licensing the launch site.
“Under NEA, ‘environment’ includes physical and biological environment and human relationships with the environment,” Zee said.
If approved, the FAA would issue a Launch Site Operator License to NMSA for
the operation for suborbital launches of horizontal and vertical launch vehicles, and the construction of infrastructure to support launch activities, Zee said.
While in construction, 970 acres of land would be affected.
“The final footprint of the facility is 145 acres,” Zee said.
The proposed construction includes a vertical launch area, horizontal launch area, access roads and associated infrastructure. Construction would take place in two phases, primarily on New Mexico State Trust land.
Activities at the completed Spaceport America would include launches, landings and recovery of vertical launch vehicles; ground-based tests; training and XPrize Cup events, Zee said.
“The proposed action would impact historic properties with physical damage, changes to the setting and changing visual and auditory effects,” Zee said. “The next step is to develop measures to avoid, minimize or mitigate the adverse effects to historic properties and sign a memorandum of agreement that outline mitigation measures.”
During the second meeting, held at 6:30 p.m. in City Commission chambers, Alamogordo resident Rudy Clarke offered a comment.
“If you build it they will come,” Clarke said. “New Mexico offers an opportunity to get away from all that (bad weather, full airspace, light pollution, being in the midst of a city like Cape Canaveral).”
Clarke, a former airport manager, said if you look at cities that invested in airports 50 years ago, you see the cities that are huge now.
The FAA approval process began in January 2006 when a notice of intent was issued in the Federal Register, she said. The final EIS will be released in November and an official record of decision will be posted in December.
To see a draft copy of the EIS visit the FAA’s Web site at ast.faa.gov. Comments will be taken on the EIS until Aug. 18. E-mail comments to SpaceportAmericaEIS@icfi.com.
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