The Real Deal Miami

Wilderness advocates resist proposed spaceport

A state agency called Space Florida is proposing the Shiloh Launch Complex

February 07, 2016 12:30PM

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The Shiloh Launch Complex would operate at the Kennedy Space Center.

The Shiloh Launch Complex would operate at the Kennedy Space Center.

A proposed commercial spaceport in Central Florida is encountering resistance from wilderness advocates concerned about its environmental impact.

The proposed 200-acre Shiloh Launch Complex in Cape Canaveral would be located on the grounds of the John F. Kennedy Space Center. The Kennedy Space Center is surrounded by the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, a wildlife sanctuary where bald eagles and endangered species of panthers find habitat.

Space Florida, the state government’s aerospace economic development agency that is proposing the Shiloh Launch Complex.

The Shiloh spaceport and another proposed spaceport just north of the Florida-Georgia border, near the Cumberland Island National Seashore, would lead to temporary evacuations, noise pollution, water pollution from rocket fuel and debris, and safety issues for visitors and wildlife, according to a blog on the website of the National Parks Conservation Association. The association’s senior managing director of conservation programs, Sarah Barmeyer, wrote the blog.

Charlie Venuto, who sits on the board of the privately funded Merritt Island Wildlife Association in Florida, worked for three decades at the Kennedy Space Center in environmental compliance for the space-shuttle program. He contends that putting spaceports next to nature refuges limits the development of wildlife habitat. “Otherwise you’d see condos there,” Venuto told Outside, an environmental publication.

But Venuto criticized the plan for the Shiloh Launch Complex. Though its site is within the Kennedy Space Center complex, it is about 10 miles from the main launch pads there, so the Shiloh complex would need its own launch pad. He said Space Florida should consider repurposing existing launch pads closer to the core of the Kennedy Space Center rather than build a new one.

“To put a launch pad where there’s absolutely no infrastructure and no launch history, on a relatively pristine area, would be a detriment to the environment as well as from a cultural and historical perspective,” Venuto told Outside. “There’s already been damage. This area used to have the highest number of birds in the Audubon count, and that number has gone down. Any more takeover of this habitat will just lead to more degradation.” [Outside] — Mike Seemuth

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