[EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated with a response from Cameron County.]
McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — SpaceX on Monday changed its plans again and announced that Boca Chica Beach could be closed for most of this work week for tests, according to a new memo obtained by Border Report.
Border Report on Monday morning had obtained a memo sent Sunday sent to “Agency Partners” and labeled “FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY” that said “Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) will conduct testing 9/12/2022 through 9/16/22 and Hwy. 4 and Boca Chica Beach will be closed.”
But a couple hours after Border Report made inquiries to Cameron County and SpaceX asking why such lengthy beach closures were needed, SpaceX issued another memo on Monday afternoon that said “Space Exploration Technologies, Corp. (SpaceX) has revoked closure dates on 9/13 through 9/16 and Hwy 4 and Boca Chica Beach will be open.”
Then on Monday afternoon, the company announced that it was closing the beach on Tuesday for tests and could possibly be closed on Wednesday and Thursday if more time is needed to finish the exercises.
The beach was closed on Monday for tests, just four days after a massive grassfire burned dozens of acres during a rocket test Thursday.
The fire raised the ire of environmentalists who say SpaceX is damaging the ecosystem and threatening local wildlife.
“It’s outrageous! The public is just losing their beach even though they have a right to it,” Jim Chapman, an environmentalist with the grassroots group SaveRGV and vice president of the nonprofit Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, told Border Report on Monday.
“SpaceX says ‘jump’ and the county says ‘how high?'” Chapman said.
The Sunday memo obtained by Border Report was not posted on Cameron County’s website where closures of Boca Chica Beach are listed.
But Monday afternoon a letter signed by Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr., approving the closure of Boca Chica Beach for “SpaceX non-flight testing activities” from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m on Tuesday, and allowing Wednesday and Thursday as “alternate dates to complete its testing activities” was posted on the county’s website.
After the posting, Juan Gonzalez, chief counsel for Cameron County, sent Border Report an email on Monday afternoon saying “the closures requested and approved for September 13th 14th and 15th experienced a miscommunication between SpaceX and Cameron County that has now been corrected.”
Border Report has reached out to SpaceX to ask why they needed so many testing days, and to explain the fire that ensued following the Sept. 8 rocket test on the remote area that borders Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico.
This story will be updated if a response is received.
On May 29, 2020, Border Report captured on video an explosion at the same SpaceX launch facility as it was conducting tests.
SpaceX wants to launch its Starship/Super Heavy spacecraft from South Texas and is conducting multiple tests with that goal despite pushback from local environmentalists and many residents who are angered every time the 20-mile stretch of rural highway and public beach are closed.
In June, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on the agency’s environmental review of SpaceX’s request to launch the largest spacecraft known to Earth from the rural South Texas border beach.
SpaceX tweeted Thursday that the private space company had completed a “6-engine static fire test at Starbase,” which is the name the company has given for its commercial spaceport in South Texas.
Several posts on social media asked about a fire that was immediately seen after the test firings but the company did not reply or explain.
The grassfire lasted about five hours after the SpaceX test.
Chapman said the fire occurred on state-owned lands and Texas Parks & Wildlife allowed it to burn itself out rather than step onto sensitive wildlands to extinguish the blaze.
Chapman’s group, Save RGV, along with the Sierra Club and the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe, have sued the Texas General Land Office, Land Commissioner George P. Bush and Cameron County challenging the closure of a public state beach in Texas, which they say is a violation of Texas’ Open Beaches Act.
However, a judge in July ruled the groups have no right to sue these organizations.
Chapman’s group is appealing and he said Monday he wishes they could do more, especially with so many recent beach closures.
An activist with SaveRGV told Border Report that SpaceX has caused over 600 hours of closures of Boca Chica Beach so far this year.
“They’re way, way, way over their limit for closures,” Chapman said. “We should do something.”
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com