The Thiokol Chemical Corp. firing pit, aerial view, in 1964. The former rocket testing site is now the location of the proposed Spaceport Camden. Wooster, Kirk

FAA to take public input on environmental impact of Spaceport Camden

Coastal Georgia officials are one step closer to bringing a commercial rocket launch pad to Camden County.

The Federal Aviation Administration this week released the draft of an environmental impact statement that will be used to decide whether the government will allow satellites, supplies and possibly people to be launched into orbit from the former manufacturing property.

Steve Howard, Camden County’s administrator and Spaceport Camden project lead, called the release of the impact statement a “historic day.”

The spaceport is part of the county’s strategic plan, with officials saying development of the project will help the region’s economy and bring diverse job opportunities to the area.

The 11,000-acre site, located in Waverly, used to serve as a manufacturing depot for insecticides, chemicals and trip flares. The property, owned by Bayer CropScience, also has served as a rocket test site.

Residents and property owners on nearby Cumberland Island and Little Cumberland Island said they are concerned about having rockets launch so close to their homes.

Kevin Lang, who owns a home on Cumberland Island, said his biggest concern is that the impact statement lists residents and visitors on those islands as being “authorized persons.”

That means during rocket launches, they don’t have to evacuate, but that raises safety concerns.

“There is no precedent for that,” Lang said. “The FAA has never allowed a rocket to be launched while people are in a hazard area.”

Residents recently launched Protect Cumberland Island, what they’re calling an education campaign to share their concerns about the project.

The public can review the draft environmental impact statement through May 7 online and in person at the Camden County, St. Mary’s, Brunswick-Glynn County and St. Simons Island public libraries.

There also will be public hearings held April 11 and 12 at the Camden County Public Services Authority Recreation Center. The FAA will then review the public response and issue a final environmental impact statement at some point in the following months.

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