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State Coastal Commission looks at impacts of increased number of SpaceX launches from Central Coast

A January 31 SpaceX Falcon 9 launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base.
A January 31 SpaceX Falcon 9 launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base.

Commission will look at potential mitigation measures during April 10 meeting.

SpaceX has been ramping up the number of launches it’s conducting from Vandenberg Space Force Base. In fact, so many have been taking place the base isn’t in compliance with an agreement with the state over some environmental issues.

The State Coastal Commission is charged with overseeing environmental protections along our coastline. Last year, Commission staff cleared the way for SpaceX to go from six to 36 launches a year, as well as to have up to 12 reusable booster landings.

But then, staff members say they learned that Santa Barbara County’s Jalama Beach was being closed, and evacuated as a precaution more times than agreed to by the Air Force.

The Commission’s Executive Director re-opened the agreement, to look at mitigation measures.

There’s a proposal to ramp up wildlife monitoring on the coast for impacts like noise. SpaceX will step up communications with fishermen on the coast, so they will know which offshore areas are closed over launch safety concern. And, the company will contribute to a fund to recover abandoned fishing nets. That’s to offset debris from weather balloons launched before flights to check upper level wind levels. Recovering the balloons is difficult.

The State Coastal Commission will look at the concerns at its April 10 meeting.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.