U.S. wildlife investigators cautioned that SpaceX’s expansion in Boca Chica, Texas, has coincided with a decline in the population of snowy and piping plover.
U.S. wildlife investigators cautioned that SpaceX’s expansion in Boca Chica, Texas, has coincided with a decline in the population of snowy and piping plovers, shorebirds that are under threat in many coastal regions.
“It is not clear what happened to the ‘missing’ plovers, but if SpaceX activities have resulted in the loss of over half the Boca Chica population then the entire critical habitat is being impacted,” the Fish and Wildlife Service wrote in a draft biological opinion obtained by Bloomberg. The opinion was submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration as part of its environmental review of SpaceX’s plans at Boca Chica.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has big plans to send humans to Mars aboard Starship, its massive reusable rocket that is assembled at Boca Chica. The 47-acre launch site on the Gulf of Mexico is adjacent to tidal flats, marshes and wetlands that provide critical habitats for several species, from sea turtles to plovers, ocelots and falcons. The intent of a biological opinion is to state whether the federal agency — in this case, the FAA — has ensured that its action isn’t likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species or cause damage or destruction of critical habitats.
“Some possibilities of why or where the ‘missing birds’ are or have gone could include: direct mortality from explosions/tests (heat plume, blast overpressure, falling debris), chronic injury to internal organs from those operations, loss of habitat due to damage from debris recovery activities, or avoidance/displacement due to frequent noise and testing,” according to the Fish and Wildlife agency’s coastal Texas field office.
The FAA is attempting to complete its environmental assessment of the site by May 31 following multiple delays. A final biological opinion is expected in a few more weeks.
The draft biological opinion was first reported by CNBC.