SpaceX confirmed Wednesday that officials with the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have requested access to the property where rockets could one day launch to Mars.
“The Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently requested SpaceX permit access to our South Texas Launch site to conduct a site survey,” SpaceX Spokesman James Gleeson said in a statement. “At this time, SpaceX is evaluating the request and is in communication with DHS to further understand their plans.”
The development comes as SpaceX continues to work on its launch pad and while the company owned by entrepreneur Elon Musk, who recently visited the South Texas Launch site, is building a prototype of the Starship spacecraft that may one day take people to Mars.
The only announcement the federal government has made about building more border wall infrastructure in Cameron County is that it will fill in 11 gaps in the existing wall.
On Nov. 29, CBP announced it had awarded $3,731,380 for the construction of seven gates with a $1,985,525 option for four additional gates to Gideon Contracting, a San Antonio firm, on Oct. 3. Construction began on Nov. 30.
Gleeson, the SpaceX spokesman, did not elaborate further on discussions between the company and the federal government about why DHS and CBP sought access to conduct a site survey.
In early December, Brownsville Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela called the border wall a threat to economic development in South Texas, as well as damaging the environment and culture of the Rio Grande Valley.
“The border wall has already inflicted massive environmental damage to border communities, causing increased flooding, threatening delicate ecosystems, and resulting in millions of dollars of damage along the way. Including funding for a border wall in the Fiscal Year 2019 spending bill would exacerbate the economic and cultural damage to our community,” Vela said in a statement. “It would cut through historic landmarks like Palmito Hill, endanger wildlife including ocelots currently protected by the Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and threaten innovation and economic development in South Texas by tearing through the SpaceX Launch site. Enough is enough.”
On Wednesday, Vela said he would file legislation to protect SpaceX and the Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, as well as land in Hidalgo County that includes the historic La Lomita Chapel and the National Butterfly Center.
Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. said that he had not heard DHS and CBP had requested access to the SpaceX launch site.
“I don’t have any details on it, but, boy, that’s somewhat disappointing news,” Treviño said. “I can see if there’s going to be an area down here that’s fairly well secure and guarded and well thought out from a security protection standpoint, I would guess SpaceX would fill out all the points there, but I guess that’s the state of the country at the moment.”
Treviño said that hopefully the communications between DHS, CBP and SpaceX are meaningful.
“Hopefully, the communications will be positive in a sense of what the intentions are of everybody with the understanding that obviously SpaceX needs to do what’s necessary in order to move forward with its project and DHS can continue its mandate to provide homeland security without the construction of a concrete barrier or wall,” Treviño said.
He said he hopes that the reason for CBP and DHS wanting to survey SpaceX’s property doesn’t hinder the future of the company in Cameron County.
“I would hate for this talk or discussion or even thought process of considering a border wall in that area to be a deterrent to the progress SpaceX is making,” Treviño said.
© 2019 The Brownsville Herald (Brownsville, Texas)
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