Cumberland Island Homes Association Opposes Spaceport Camden Plan

Spaceport Camden launch trajectories (Credit: Camden County)

LITTLE CUMBERLAND ISLAND, Ga. ( Little Cumberland Island Homes Association PR) – Cumberland and Little Cumberland Islands have just become the first communities in America to be directly downrange from a vertical launch spaceport awaiting license approval from the FAA. More than sixty private homes lie in the path of rockets that Camden County commissioners hope someday to launch.

In the history of U.S. space flight, neither NASA nor the FAA have permitted a vertical launch over private homes or people directly downrange. The risk to people and property from an exploding rocket is too great.

On January 29, the Camden County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners filed an application to launch commercial/non-federal rockets over the Cumberland Island National Seashore and Little Cumberland Island. Camden County’s proposal to launch vertical rockets over people and their homes is without precedent in the United States.

According to the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed spaceport, rocket failures are reasonably expected to occur every 18 months (a 6 percent stated failure rate with 12 proposed launches each year). It will only take one rocket failure to completely destroy Little Cumberland Island and the northern end of Cumberland Island. What other community in America faces the prospect of total destruction every 1.5 years as a result of the actions of its own local government?

Aerospace Corp. was engaged to analyze the risks associated with launching rockets from the proposed site, but Camden County has refused to make the results of the analysis public. Little Cumberland Island Homes Association, Inc., the Southern Environmental Law Center, and other groups and individuals have submitted Georgia Open Records Act requests for public disclosure of the risk analysis for the proposed spaceport. Camden County denied the requests, relying on an inapplicable exception to Open Records Act. This risk analysis contains impact dispersion diagrams of debris fields from rocket explosions all over the National Seashore and the homes of its residents.

For more information on the threats that Spaceport Camden poses to the Cumberland Island National Seashore, please visit ProtectCumberlandIsland.org.

About Little Cumberland Island

Little Cumberland Island is within the boundaries of the Cumberland Island National Seashore and is home to the longest running Loggerhead Sea Turtle Research program in the world. The Little Cumberland Lighthouse was built in 1838 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

  • Saturn1300

    I advise Camden to forget it and FAA should say no. People do dumb things. They must have got advice from the Magic 8 Ball. Maybe JH(Jehovah Witness). They think they are smart and offer advice, some of which some people actually pay them for. Not smart. I had 2 Sat. morning visits and the same people showed up at stores I was at. I conclude they are spying and stalking. Which is illegal in Fl. Pence comes from Ind. where JH has HQ. So he may be one of them. I would hate to see him become President. They are my enemies. Bad people.

  • passinglurker

    As usual conservatives sell out the health and safety of their citizens to the highest bidder.

  • ThomasLMatula

    The Camden County Commissioners are mostly career county employees, so I expect the opposite is more likely, especially as they are stepping all over land owner rights with this spaceport.

  • ThomasLMatula

    This is the classic example of the putting a spaceport in the wrong location.

  • passinglurker

    I don’t see how that’s opposite

  • A traveling spaceport salesman came to town and convinced unsophisticated politicians that spaceports were the secret to community jobs and wealth. Almost $6 million has been spent on consultants, lawyers, PR and lobbyists, not to mention a Draft EIS that depended on “Authorized Persons” who would be allowed to remain in Launch Hazard Areas on their private property. The FAA has refused to communicate how they propose to change Ec calculations to allow an unknowable number of uninvolved civilians, including children, to remain on their private property when the Coast Guard is clearing marina safety zones on both inland and offshore waters on both sides of these folks. The FAA should have told Camden officials “NO WAY” on DAY ONE. The conflict of interest within the FAA’s dual mandates to promote Commercial Space and to regulate safety has never been more clear. Allowing this project to proceed is a waste of FAA resources and public funds coming from hopeful, but mislead taxpayers. It’s government acting at its shameless worst.

  • redneck

    Retoric seems to be in play on both sides. Over selling on the one hand and danger over stating on the other. I would certainly be opposed to launches over my house from a nearby range. I find it hard to believe that the relatively small vehicles pose a serious threat of wiping out the community every year and a half.

    I can be concerned about a pistol range next door without referring to them as artillery.

  • Formerly known as Skeptic

    They throw around the launch failure rate but fail to account for the odds of any given failure to actually impact (see what I did there) the community or how much damage might be done. The “prospect of total destruction every 1.5 years” is clearly wildly overstated.

    That being said, this seems like a bad idea and a bad precedent. I, however, am open to being convinced by accurate data. If the odds of a major accident are no worse than, say, a community under the flightpath of a major airport, I can’t see treating them any differently.

  • Jeff Smith

    I’m almost surprised we haven’t seen the same crazed rush to built spaceports like in the Venture Star days. This seems mild by comparison. Of course, once Virgin or SpaceX or Boeing actually starts flying passengers (not just astronauts or their pilots) we may get the big wave. We’ll just have to see…

  • Steve

    Does the state of Georgia even have a prospective customer for this site ? Ignoring the fact that it puts the National Seashore at risk, whose idea would it be to build on that Union Carbide toxic waste dump ? They may have spent 6 million so far, but that is chicken feed compared to the expense of cleaning up the site before anything can be built there. Plus, there are extremely limited windows that the launcher needs to fit thru.

    TIme to cut their losses while they still can.

  • duheagle

    That would require that someone be “bidding” for said citizens’ health and safety. Vector has indicated some interest in launching from Spaceport Camden, should it ever become an actual thing, but I don’t think the Camden County government expects the county’s coffers to overflow with fees from launch services companies. The boosters – you should pardon the expression – of Spaceport Camden seem mostly interested in bringing high-tech jobs to the area and enhancing educational and career opportunities for locals.

  • duheagle

    I was able to determine that the Camden County District 1 Commissioner, Lannie Brant, is a Republican. For the other four I couldn’t find any definite party affiliation data. Georgia is an open primary state and doesn’t collect party affiliation info on registered voters. County Commission seats in Georgia may also be non-partisan offices though I haven’t nailed that down yet.

    It was interesting that three of the current five Camden County Commissioners are graduates of, or currently enrolled in, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. This is a department of the University of Georgia that offers training for various types of local government officeholders in Georgia. The late Carl Vinson served 50 years in the U.S. House as a Democrat but that, of course, says nothing dispositive about the political leanings of particular graduates of his eponymous Institute. For whatever it may be worth, the one Commissioner of whose party affiliation I am certain was not among those with a connection the the Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

    As for stepping on landowners’ rights, that story is a bit muddier than it might, at first blush, seem. The landowners in question seem to be mostly – perhaps entirely – heirs to various surviving chunks of the Andrew Carnegie fortune. The designation of most of the two connected islands on which they reside as a National Seashore was apparently engineered by them as much to keep out the hoi polloi as for its ecology. This latter is claimed to be unique in many particulars, but that might well just be special pleading on the part of the Carnegie heirs. Georgia has a lot of barrier islands and one assumes that adjacent ones tend to have similar biomes.

    So, on the one hand, we have what looks like a bunch of idle-rich heirs manipulating the nation’s environmental laws to their particular private advantage which ought, one presumes, to render them unsympathetic characters to those of a leftist persuasion. On the other hand, being idle rich heirs, and two or more generations removed from the amassing of the fortune of which they are beneficiaries, they are almost certainly all trendy left Democrats – or worse – themselves.

    So you pays your money and you takes your choice. Me, I’m inclined to favor the creation of Spaceport Camden. High-tech jobs for the sons and daughters of the local helots who are forbidden by their betters from profaning the sacred precincts of the Greater and Lesser Cumberland Islands seems a greater public good than maintaining the private preserve of a bunch of snobby and parasitical progressives. So my fondest hope is now that the creation of Spaceport Camden is preceded by an eminent domain condemnation procedure that would evict the swells who have contrived to surround themselves with a federal wildlife refuge and leave the two islands in question to the exclusive habitation of wildlife. Small of me, perhaps, to seek such a rich tranche of schadenfreude, but there it is.

  • Hey redneck,

    Camden’s EIS is for Medium-Large Rockets. See the Executive Summary in Volume 1:
    https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/environmental/nepa_docs/review/documents_progress/camden_spaceport/

    Of course, there’s no demand for that but it’s what Camden has applied for.

    Camden’s own DEIS consultant states a 2% to 6% failure rate for mature rocket systems. Of course, new systems have little or no experience and higher failure rates worldwide. An off-trajectory anomaly will require termination over private homes and the Cumberland Island National Seashore because Kings Bay Sub Base lies due south (30-40% of US ballistic nuclear deterrent is based there) and a large civilian population lives 6.4 miles northeast.

    FAA Ec calculations are impossible because they cannot know the number of persons in the Launch Hazard Area without violating their Constitutional rights. It’s just the wrong place for a spaceport.

  • duheagle,

    You’ve got it all wrong. First of all, we’re a military town so we’re naturally mostly conservative. But Party affiliation means little here.

    Secondly, you need to read your history before assuming you have a clue about the ownership of the 100 properties on Little Cumberland Island and private retained estates on CI. Just so you know, I’ve never set foot on Little Cumberland but have been a resident volunteer and docent at the National Seashore so I have more than just a passing idea of the history. Many of the LCI/CI owners are third and fourth generation owners. But there were many families on the islands besides the Rockefellers and Carnegies. For instance, CI and LCI were layover stations for steamships plying the Brunswick to Jacksonville route before the train tracks were laid. Eli Whitney co-invented the cotton gin on CI. The British invaded St. Marys from CI in the final battle of the War of 1812-14 weeks after the Treaty of Ghent was signed. There is a Rockefeller estate and the Coke heirs have big homestead, but when they’re on the island, you couldn’t tell them from the tree-huggers. There’s a lot of history and families who have claim. Almost all of the owners I know are working stiffs. They inherited land, not money.

    Both islands comprise the Cumberland Island National Seashore. LCI has a very strict Environmental Covenant with the DOI/NPS about protecting the natural character of the island which is mostly was comprised of 200-300 year old Live Oaks forest. Some of these oaks were harvested to build the USS Constitution because of their super-strength and unique limb curvatures. The land is not open desert or prairie like Mojave or Midland. One 3,000 gal tanker/fire engine serves CI and there is no fire station on LCI. 100% of the modest homes are on private wells. Many of the families share homes to prevent “sprawl.” They’re serious about conservation.

    So launching over LCI and CI would be just as irresponsible as launching over the forests where the Camp Fires burned last year. It would be just a matter of time.

    And finally, the Georgia Constitution prohibits the use of eminent domain for commercial benefit.

    Not everything should be viewed as political. Sometimes you just have to face the facts.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Its not just the folks on the island evacuating their homes during the launch, it is also closing down parts of the National Seashore for days at a time. It is a major generater of revenue for the region and you need to subtract the revenues lost, and jobs, from it closing down.

    What they should do is build a launch platform in St. Andrews sound to the north of the island. That will eliminate the need for launching over the island and for closing the national seashore.

  • ThomasLMatula

    True, but you do have Spaceport Colorado, Oklahoma Spaceport and Midland Spaceport…

  • Saturn1300

    Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner
    won’t be taking any astronauts along for its first flight to the ISS,
    however. After docking robotically with the orbiting lab, it will return
    to Earth for a parachute landing in Texas.
    Space.com. March. Land near BO perhaps? How about that. Maybe near Houston. NASA can drive over.

  • AdmBenson

    What does Camden, GA have that Wallops Island, VA doesn’t?

  • ThomasLMatula

    I though they were doing to land it at WSMR.

  • redneck

    Thanks for reading his rambles and replying where appropriate. Allows me to skip him entirely with a reliable monitor on the job.

  • Q Tig

    Off your meds again? Seriously you should get some help its starting to look like schizophrenia.

  • Q Tig

    So pretty much like Springfield’s monorail https://youtu.be/ZDOI0cq6GZM

  • duheagle

    Don’t spoil the fun by offering an actual solution.

  • duheagle

    So your personal bailiwick should be a politics-free zone? Good luck with that. Mine sure isn’t. Welcome to reality.

    One of the facts to be faced is that, absent a modest colony of rich swells, there would be no National Seashore designation. If the only people living on the Cumberlands were the proles you highlight, they would probably already have been eminent domained and packed off to somewhere else without much in the way of hoo-rah and Spaceport Camden would already be a thing, not a proposal. Little guys get screwed by local, state and federal governments in this way daily.

    As for the Georgia Constitution, all it probably prohibits is the condemnation of property that is then turned over to a private interest – something that has become a bit of a plague in Blue states of late. But if local government keeps title to the land, no problem. Spaceport Camden might as well be Airport Camden from the standpoint of eminent domain law – a government-owned facility from which private interests lease facilities and conduct money-making operations. Vector, in this case, would be the legal equivalent of Delta Airlines at Hartsfield.

  • windbourne

    Funny how NIMBY plays out.
    I would actually have an issue with being that close to a launch site, yet have no issue with the idea of a nuke power plant being there.
    Yet, there are ppl here that would not object to being there for launch, but would fight a nuke power plant.

  • publiusr

    Who likes homeowners associations anyway?

    I say go hypergolics and gas ’em