The Army Corps of Engineers has closed its review of SpaceX's planned expansion in Boca Chica, Texas, because the company failed to provide environmental documentation about how the Starbase site growth could affect the surrounding ecology and wildlife.
Bloomberg first reported the Army Corps' letter to SpaceX detailing the missing documentation, which should have included information on how the planned expansion in South Texas would affect the complex and rare combination of coastal flats and wetlands that surround the planned growth area. The Army Corps cannot approve the company's planned growth until it submits those documents.
The local residents of Cameron County, Texas, have been sharply divided over the SpaceX facility's growth and Elon Musk's plans to build and launch the Starship spacecraft to Mars from that location eventually, in part because of the way the facility could threaten the environment and beaches. Musk's facility has grown rapidly over the last five years, and Musk reportedly spends about half of his time living in the surrounding area.
SpaceX rocket launches and booster tests have sometimes exploded over the wetlands and coastal mudflats, and environmental researchers in the area told Protocol last year that they are especially concerned about the effects on some rare bird species in the Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge, adjacent to the Starbase facility. Locals also told Protocol last year that they feel that Musk's wealth and power have made it impossible for people to challenge the company's decisions to close roads to the beaches; though the company has an agreement that gives them a right to a certain number of road closures per year, the roads have been closed for far more hours each year than previously agreed upon.
The Federal Aviation Administration is also preparing a final environmental impact report for the planned Starship and Super Heavy rocket and booster launches and has pushed backed the report's planned release date several times over the last year. The current planned release date is April 29, and that report will determine whether or not SpaceX must take additional steps to mitigate the potential environmental consequences of the Starship launches.
SpaceX did not immediately respond to request for comment.