BROWNSVILLE — A bill that will allow the temporary closure of Boca Chica Beach for possible rocket launches has passed the Texas Senate and is now on the way to the governor’s office for approval.
House Bill 2623 gained Senate approval Thursday and just needs Gov. Rick Perry’s signature to become law, officials said.
The bill would allow the beach to be closed temporarily only when SpaceX, or Space Exploration Technologies, is to conduct rocket launches should the company choose the Boca Chica Beach area as its launch pad and mission control site. Officials said the beach would need to be closed to protect the public during a launch.
“I am so proud of the people of Brownsville for supporting our effort. The turnout at the public hearings has been amazing, as has the support of our mayor, city commissioners, county judge, and county commissioners,” said state Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, who authored the bill.
The bill was co-authored by state Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-San Benito. State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, helped get it passed in the Senate.
"This legislation appropriately balances two compelling interests: The bill ensures the public’s right to beach access while also providing a way to protect public safety during commercial space launches," Sen. Lucio said. "I’m proud to sponsor this legislation. Encouraging a new space industry, and the more than $50 million annual impact it will have on our regional economy, is vitally important,” he said.
State officials said the governor is expected to sign the bill into law.
According to the bill, it would not allow the beach to be closed during holidays or weekends in the summer. The only exception to those days would be if SpaceX has to delay a weekday launch and can show “it stands to suffer significant adverse business consequences" if it doesn’t launch, officials said.
Oliveira has said that the beach would be closed for about 15 hours on the day of a rocket launch.
“We have done everything we can to protect the public’s safety, our wildlife and beach access, while at the same time trying to attract a venture that could transform our economy,” Oliveira said. “Striking the right balance has taken more than a year and a lot of hard work by a lot of good people. Hopefully, all that work will pay off and SpaceX will select Brownsville.”
A decision by SpaceX on whether it plans to construct a launch pad near the Boca Chica Beach area is anticipated sometime in September.
Laura B. Martinez is city editor at The Brownsville Herald. She can be reached at email@example.com.