NASA and University of Alaska-Fairbanks Hosting Environmental Public Meetings
NASA and the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute are hosting public meetings to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the NASA Sounding Rockets Program operations at the University’s Poker Flat Research Range near Fairbanks.
Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, the environmental study will evaluate the effects of NASA’s continued operations at Poker Flat.
Owned and operated by the University since 1968, Poker Flat is a launch facility for sounding rockets that carry scientific instruments to regions of the upper atmosphere and space. These regions are inaccessible by other commonly used methods such as satellites and balloons. As the only high-latitude range in the United States capable of supporting launch trajectories toward the north, many of the rocket experiments are dedicated to the continued research of the aurora borealis and other upper atmospheric phenomena.
The range is located 30 miles north of Fairbanks northeast of the unincorporated village of Chatanika, Alaska, and consists of approximately 5,200 acres of land. The site houses rocket and support facilities, launch pads, and tracking infrastructure. Scientists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and other universities across the country use the Range for their research.
The study will consider a range of alternatives that meet NASA’s science needs for obtaining the requisite Earth and space science data afforded by high-latitude sounding rocket launches in support of its science and educational missions.
NASA anticipates that the areas of potential environmental impact from each alternative of most interest to the public will be: the effects of rocket and payload landing and recovery on special interest lands (including Wilderness Areas and Wild Rivers), considerations to ensure public safety during rocket flight, and potential effects on subsistence uses on lands within the flight zones.
The environmental study also will support the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) decision-making process for proposed issuance of permits for rocket impact and recovery at Arctic and Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuges and the Steese National Conservation Area and the White Mountains National Recreation Areas, respectively.
Held cooperatively with BLM, University of Alaska Fairbanks, USFWS and NASA, the public meetings will provide further information and gather input from the public and government representatives regarding potential environmental concerns or project alternatives. All interested parties are invited. The meeting locations and dates are:
Thursday April 28, 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at the Fort Yukon Tribal Hall in Fort Yukon, Alaska.
Monday, May 2, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, William R. Wood Center, 505 S. Chandalar Drive in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Monday, May 2, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Pioneer Park, Centennial Center for the Arts, Blue Room/3rd Floor, 2300 Airport Way, in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Tuesday, May 3, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Gordon Watson Conference Room, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1011 East Tudor Rd., in Anchorage, Alaska.
At the beginning of each meeting, the University will provide information on the Research Range and NASA will overview the project and the National Environmental Policy Act process. NASA will then open up the meeting for public comment. A meeting recorder will be available to document all oral comments. If you require special assistance to attend the meetings, please contact Joshua Bundick at the contact information below at least two business days prior to the meeting.
Comments also may be submitted by email, mail, phone, or fax at the contact information provided below. Comments will be accepted throughout the Draft EIS analysis process; however, for full early consideration of comments to help shape and refine the proposal, please submit comments by June 1, 2011 to:
Manager, Poker Flat Research Range EIS
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Wallops Flight Facility
Wallops Island, VA 23337
Phone: (757) 824-2319
Fax: (757) 824-1819
Additional information about NASA’s Sounding Rocket Program may be found on the internet at: http://sites.wff.nasa.gov/code810
Additional information about the University of Alaska-Fairbanks’ Poker Flat Research Range may be found on the internet at: http://www.pfrr.alaska.edu
Information regarding the NEPA process for this proposal and supporting documents (as available) will be located at http://sites.wff.nasa.gov/code250/pfrr_eis.html