Another rocket launch is scheduled for Kodiak’s Pacific Spaceport Complex next week. It comes on the heels of a successful launch back in March – and as Alaska Aerospace eyes expanding operations at its facility. But some residents say that growth is shutting out locals’ access to the area.
Alaska Aerospace’s chief executive officer Milton Keeter will be in Kodiak this week. Keeter will be taking questions from Borough Assembly members during their work session on Thursday, Sept. 8 regarding road closures near the company’s Pacific Spaceport Complex on Narrow Cape. The facility is located near several popular recreation areas – including Fossil Beach – at the end of the island’s road system. Those areas are accessible by a single road that cuts through the complex.
A flurry of social media posts on Kodiak community Facebook pages dating back to late spring say the closures are happening outside of launch windows and often without notice.
Dave Conrad is the Kodiak Island Borough’s interim manager. He said the borough has also fielded calls about the closures.
“Their concern is that they are of the belief that the Alaska Aerospace is not honoring the Spaceport Masterplan that was developed and worked on in 2019 and 2020,” said Conrad.
That master plan was developed with input from Alaska Aerospace, members of the public and the Borough. It encompasses 10 years of growth at the facility and outlines “improved public notification procedures” about road closures around the complex, including published notices in local media, social media posts and signage near Bells Flats – just past the Coast Guard base – and a list of foreseeable times that launches and road closures would occur.
And in July and August, Alaska Aerospace filed requests with the state to expand road closures to encompass more of the area surrounding the Spaceport complex – effectively cutting off public access at the switchbacks before popular areas like Surfer’s Beach during launch windows and certain facility operations.
That last part caught the attention of Borough Assembly members at their last regular meeting earlier this month.
“You drive out the road not knowing that there’s going to be a closed road, you got your family with you … we’ve got to come to an agreement with these people on that. And this thing about stopping people at the switchbacks? No. People are pulling their hair out over that,” said Kodiak Borough Mayor Bill Roberts.
Both Roberts and Conrad sent letters to the commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Transportation dated Sept. 2 stating the Assembly’s “deep concerns” regarding the lack of information from Alaska Aerospace on the closures near the complex.
In response, Conrad says officials from ADOT plan to review the closures when they visit Kodiak and meet with Borough officials at the end of the month. Although, not everyone is unhappy with the Spaceport complex, and many of the complaints come from the same individuals, according to Conrad.
When reached for comment, Alaska Aerospace CEO Keeter said he wants to work with the community and mitigate any concerns about the complex. He also said there’s been some misinformation spread about the company’s plans for expansion – particularly on social media – and he’s looking forward to building connections with the Borough Assembly.
Alaska Aerospace’s next launch window at Kodiak’s Pacific Spaceport Complex is scheduled for Sept. 12 to 13. A list of road, water and air closures is available at the company’s website.