The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) established a national policy to protect the environment by requiring Federal agencies to consider the effects of their actions on the human environment prior to implementing said action(s) and to give the public the opportunity to participate in the planning process. NASA is in the process of preparing a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) to consider the potential effects from its Proposed Action. This PEIS is being prepared to fulfill NASA's obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Council on Environmental Quality's (CEQ) regulations implementing NEPA (40 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] Parts 1500 through 1508), NASA's Procedural Requirements (NPR) for implementing NEPA (NPR 8580.1), and the corresponding NEPA requirements of the Cooperating Agencies.
WFF is a NASA Goddard Space Flight Center field installation located in Accomack County on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The facility consists of three distinct landmasses - the Main Base, Wallops Mainland, and Wallops Island - totaling nearly 2,630 hectares (6,500 acres). It is the oldest active launch range in the continental United States and the only range completely under NASA management. For over 65 years, WFF has flown thousands of research vehicles in the quest for information on the characteristics of airplanes, rockets, and spacecraft, and to increase the knowledge of the Earth's upper atmosphere and the near space environment. The flight programs and projects currently supported by WFF include sounding rockets, scientific balloons, manned and unmanned experimental aircraft, space shuttle and orbital tracking, next-generation launch vehicle development, expendable launch vehicles, and small and mid-size orbital spacecraft. To meet the safety and technical requirements of its various missions, many of WFF's primary launch support facilities reside on Wallops Island (island) which is located directly on the Atlantic Ocean.
In keeping with the principles, goals, and guidelines of the 2010 National Space Policy, WFF not only fulfills its own mission, but also provides unique services to NASA, commercial customers, defense, and academia. One guiding principle of the National Space Policy is for Federal agencies to facilitate the commercial space industry. The recent growth of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island is a real-world example of WFF's commitment to making commercial access to space a reality. Another goal of the 2010 National Space Policy is that Federal agencies will improve their partnerships through cooperation, collaboration, information sharing, and/or alignment of common pursuits with each other. WFF supports aeronautical research, science technology, and education by providing other NASA centers and government agencies access to resources such as special use (i.e., restricted) airspace, research runways, and launch pads. Additionally, WFF regularly enables a wide array of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) research and development and training missions, including target and missile launches, and aircraft development.
In January 2005, NASA issued a Final Site-Wide Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact for WFF. However, since then substantial growth has occurred and NASA has prepared several supplemental NEPA documents including the 2008 EA for the Wallops Research Park, the 2009 EA for the Expansion of the Wallops Flight Facility Launch Range and 2015 Supplemental EA (SEA) for Antares 200 Configuration Expendable Launch Vehicle, the 2010 Shoreline Restoration and Infrastructure Protection Program PEIS and 2013 Wallops Island Post-Hurricane Sandy Shoreline Repair SEA, the 2011 Alternative Energy Program EA, and the 2011 Draft EA for the Main Entrance Reconfiguration, the 2012 EA for the North Wallops Island Unmanned Aerial Systems Airstrip, and the 2016 EA for the Establishment of Restricted Area Airspace R-6604C/D/E. Additionally, WFF has Cooperated with its federal partners in preparing several supplemental NEPA documents for actions at WFF including the Navy’s 2013 E-2/C-2 Flight Carrier Landing Practice EA, the Navy’s 2014 Testing of Hypervelocity Projectiles and an Electromagnetic Railgun EA, and the Air Force’s Instrumentation Tower on Wallops Island EA. NASA is in the process of updating its 20-year Master Plan, which proposes several new facilities and numerous infrastructure improvements. As such, NASA is initiating the preparation of one consolidated Site-wide PEIS for its current and future missions and operations.
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The PEIS evaluates the potential environmental impacts from the Proposed Action and a No Action alternative.
The Proposed Action is separated into two groups of actions: Intuitional Support Projects and Operational Missions and Activities. In order to increase WFF's ability to support a growing mission base in the areas of civil, defense, and academic aerospace, NASA is proposing to provide facilities and infrastructure under the Institutional Support Projects that would directly support existing missions as well as modernized functionality to meet future operational mission requirements in direct support of WFF's strategic goals. To achieve these goals, WFF is proposing to change the physical environment of the installation by constructing new facilities and removing old, outdated facilities on the Main Base, Mainland, and Island; changing existing land uses on the Island to permit concurrent hazardous activities; and focusing new construction to the maximum extent practicable to previously disturbed and developed sites. Institutional activities would support a number of facility projects ranging from new construction, demolition, and renovation; extension of Runway 04/22; replacement of the Wallops causeway bridge; maintenance dredging between the boat docks at the Main Base and Wallops Island; development of a deep-water port and operations area on north Wallops Island; enlargement of the restricted airspace; and the addition of two sounding rocket, one two Navy target launch pads, and one orbital vehicle launchers pad or launch pier on south Wallops Island; replacement of the Wallops causeway bridge; maintenance dredging between the boat docks at the Main Base and Wallops Island. Operational Missions and Activities could include the processing and launching of larger liquid fueled and solid fueled launch vehicles including those that either vertically or horizontally return to the launch site; and as well as the introduction of new opportunities and the expansion of existing NASA, DoD, and commercial programs at WFF.
NASA anticipates that the public will be most interested in the potential environmental impacts on protected and special status species, wetlands, noise, and socioeconomics.
NASA published a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare the Site-wide PEIS and conduct scoping in the July 11, 2011 edition of the Federal Register.
NASA and its Cooperating Agencies held a public scoping meeting where information on the Site-wide PEIS was solicited regarding environmental concerns and alternatives for consideration in the PEIS. It was held on Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at the WFF Visitor Center from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM.
The public scoping meeting presentation is available online.
As the PEIS is prepared, the public will be provided several opportunities for involvement, the first of which was during scoping. Even if an interested party did not have input at that time, other avenues, including reviews of the Draft and Final EIS, will be offered in the future. The availability of these documents will be published in the Federal Register and through local news media to ensure that all members of the public have the ability to actively participate in the NEPA process.
The Site-wide PEIS will serve as a decision-making tool not only for NASA but also for its Federal Cooperating Agencies. Each of these agencies will be involved closely in NASA's NEPA process given the potential for their undertaking actions related to NASA's as summarized below: