SpaceX wants to fill in wetlands at South Texas launch facility

Border Report Tour

Monday is last day for public comments to federal government on plans by private space company

SpaceX wants to fill in wetlands near its South Texas launch facility. The company’s vast complex includes sand dunes near Boca Chica Beach where sea turtles nest. (Border Report File Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — SpaceX wants to fill in over 17 acres of wetlands near the company’s South Texas launch facility, which is drawing ire from environmentalists who are urging the public to object because they are uncertain of the effects this will have on Gulf currents, nesting sea turtles or other area wildlife.

Monday is the last day the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will accept public comments on SpaceX’s proposal, which is posted on the Corps’ website. The company is proposing to fill in 10.94 acres of mud flats, 5.94 acres of estuarine wetlands, and 0.28 acres of non-tidal wetlands in remote Cameron County adjacent to Boca Chica Beach.

This body of water separating the SpaceX launch facility, where a Starship prototype was readying for a launch on Nov. 30, 2020, is called a mud flat or tidal flat. SpaceX wants to fill in almost 11 acres of tidal flats and 6 acres of estuarine wetlands to boost its launch capacity. (Border Report File Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

Mud flats, or tidal flats, form in intertidal areas where sediments have been deposited by tides or rivers and are pervasive in this Gulf Coast area. The majority of the land that SpaceX wants to fill to increase its launch area capacity in is tidal flats, according to the notice, which reads: “SpaceX proposed to modify the existing permit for the continued development of the SpaceX vertical launch area with the expansion and addition of test, orbital, and landing pads, integration towers, associated infrastructure, stormwater management features and vehicle parking. The proposed expansion will impact 10.94 acres of mud flats, 5.94 acres of estuarine wetlands, and 0.28 acres of non-tidal wetlands.”

Jim Chapman

But Jim Chapman, president of the nonprofit Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, says SpaceX’s proposal lacks a mitigation plan, which he says is necessary whenever a business wants to do away with an environmentally sensitive area, such as a wetland. He says he has been told that SpaceX has yet to provide such a plan.

“The surprising thing about this one is there is no mitigation plan in the public notice and so they want to fill in three different types of land,” Chapman told Border Report via phone.

“How are they going to compensate or remedy or mitigate the fact that they are going to fill in these wetlands? The Corps of Engineers on a national level have no debt loss policy and no debt loss of wetlands. When developers are going to destroy wetlands they have to either make new wetlands or improve existing wetlands. They have to do something. But I was told by the Corps there is no mitigation plan yet,” Chapman said. “The Corps when they issue a public notice they are required to include the mitigation plans and the reason they didn’t is because SpaceX hasn’t given it to them.”

When developers are going to destroy wetlands they have to either make new wetlands or improve existing wetlands. They have to do something. …”

Jim Chapman, president of the Friends of the Wildlife Corridor nonprofit

Border Report has reached out to the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as to Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño for comment on the proposal and this story will be updated if more information is received.

Beach dunes and tidal flats surround SpaceX’s South Texas launch facility near Boca Chica Beach, Texas. (Border Report File Photo/Sandra Sanchez)


The Sierra Club has posted an online petition and website for Texas residents to fill out public comment cards to protest the filling in of the wetlands. The petition is located here.

The nonprofit environmental group says “filling in of wetlands and the paving over of upland areas will have negative impacts on vegetation, migratory birds, nesting birds, endangered and threatened species such as the Ocelot.”

SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk has actively been promoting his South Texas launch facility on social media and last week urged residents to move to Cameron County and to consider a job with his company.

SpaceX has had a series of rockets explode upon landing at the South Texas facility lately, including the latest one last Tuesday. The company originally built the facility to house the Falcon rocket series but has since switched to developing the massive Starship space craft, which it wants to one day launch to Mars from this site.

Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration released its findings from a public scoping report on SpaceX’s proposal to launch its Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket from the Boca Chica launch site, which was met with mixed reviews. Over 300 comments were accepted and the FAA is conducting an environmental review to determine whether or not to approve SpaceX’s launch expansion plans.

Monday is the deadline for public comments on SpaceX’s proposal to reduce the wetlands area surrounding its massive complex located near Boca Chica Beach, Texas.

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