The Texas Town That Welcomed SpaceX Isn’t So Sure Anymore

Some residents of Boca Chica are upset about SpaceX’s new launch locale.

By Rhonda FanningSeptember 11, 2015 8:20 am| , ,

Living near the world’s first commercial rocket-launch site sounds exciting. Indeed, to the town of Boca Chica village along the Texas Gulf Coast, the prospect of being a destination for the new age of space exploration was more than just thrilling – it was historic. It was a chance to be in the global spotlight.

The tiny south Texas beach town is right near where Elon Musk’s SpaceX is starting to build its launch site. The company has a $1.6 billion dollar contract to ship cargo to NASA’s International Space Station. It’s also been expanding into private deliveries to satellite companies and other international customers, so Musk looked to Boca Chica to expand the company with a new private spaceport.

But today, some residents, like Cheryl Stevens, are having second thoughts. The Standard speaks with Stevens about some residents’ wish that the whole thing would just go away.

Stevens recently made a comment that likened Boca Chica to Nazi Germany under the SpaceX restrictions. She clarifies: “We would be restricted in our homes for 15 hours at a time – actually, to either stay in our homes for 15 hours at a time, or to leave and not be able to come back on the day of a launch. In addition to that, they’re talking about having two separate checkpoints miles away, about 18 miles away, and everybody that lives beyond that point would have to register with the county and show a badge to get through on launch day.”

“There’s an issue with that because Elon Musk doesn’t own the property from that point where he wants to checkpoint all the way to Boca Chica Beach, Stevens says. “So there’s an issue with our civil liberties under the Constitution. We have the right to travel.”

The big issues she and other homeowners have with the arrival of SpaceX boil down to three points, she says: “The civil liberties, the environmental issue and the access to the beach.”

Boca Chica is a modest neighborhood, Stevens says. It’s not the houses that are impressive, but the view. The town is in the middle of a wildlife refuge.

“It’s an ancient migratory bird path for one. For two, where they want to build is right next to the south bay of the Laguna Madre, which is the only hypersaline lagoon in the nation,” she says. “The negative estuary – which means tide waters flow in but not out – any pollution of it would be devastating.”

We also reached out to SpaceX for their side of the story. A spokesman told us many of the residents complaints are without merit, but they declined to comment on the record. Instead the company referred us to an environmental impact statement issued by the Federal Aviation Administration and other authorities.