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Study to Assess Environmental Impact of Space Complex in Wildlife Refuge

July 18th, 2013 | WMFE - Space Florida wants an independent firm to study the environmental impact of a commercial launch complex in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Environmentalists are opposing the complex, which would be built at the site of an old citrus town called Shiloh.

The complex would be the world's first commercial site to offer comprehensive launch and recovery capabilities for companies like Space X.

Dale Ketcham, from the state's space development agency Space Florida, says Shiloh is the best place to build the complex.

"Space Florida has believed all along that the impacts are going to very minimal, but we also knew people didn't have to believe us."

Ketcham says Space Florida will pay for the study, which will be conducted by an independent firm and overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Environmental groups including Audubon of Florida and the National Parks Conservation Association wrote to the secretary of the interior last week outlining their concerns.

They say the catastrophic failure of a rocket is a risk that could have incalculable impacts on the fragile natural resources in the refuge

Layne Hamilton manages the refuge, which has more threatened and endangered species than any other national wildlife refuge in the continental U.S.

"The Fish and Wildlife Service continues to be concerned about the impacts on our threatened and endangered species in the area, the cultural resources and the visitor services."

The study also will assess cultural and economic impacts, and it will include public input. It's expected to cost up to a million dollars and take about a year.

Similar studies already are underway in Texas and Georgia, where Space X is also eyeing sites for a potential launch complex.


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