Wallops Flight Facility Marsh Fiber Final Environmental Assessment (EA)


Individual Appendices:


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) for its proposed Marsh Fiber Project in Accomack County, Virginia. The EA has been prepared to satisfy NASA's obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) and also serves as a means for ensuring compliance with a variety of other Federal statutes, including the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Clean Water Act, National Historic Preservation Act, Coastal Zone Management Act, and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

The purpose of the Marsh Fiber EA is to analyze the potential effects of installing a fiber optic cable from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Wallops Island National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Airstrip on NASA's Wallops Island. This EA is tiered from the May 2019 NASA WFF Site-wide Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). In the Site-wide PEIS, NASA evaluated the potential environmental effects from various alternatives, including upgrades or replacement of utility infrastructure. The Site-wide PEIS available at https://code200-external.gsfc.nasa.gov/250-wff/site-wide_eis.

Currently, a single fiber optic cable system along Atlantic Road provides communications and command data from the WFF Main Base to Wallops Island. Damage or failure of the single cable system would put NASA, its tenants, and the public at risk for disruptions to launch command and information technology services. The project is needed to provide a redundant, geographically diverse, and reliable means of highspeed fiber optic communications for NASA, Department of Defense, and commercial systems on Wallops Island. The existing cable system would remain in operation to complete the communications loop.

NASA proposes to use a combination of horizontal directional drilling and vibratory trenching methods to install the fiber optic cable under waterways and across the saltmarsh. The EA evaluates the environmental consequences of the Proposed Action and No Action Alternative.

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Cooperating Agencies

Because a portion of the proposed Marsh Fiber path would be installed in the Wallops Island NWR, the USFWS is a cooperating agency on this EA, and, as such, has assisted NASA in preparing the EA and has participated in all regulatory consultations during the NEPA process.

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Current Analysis

The proposed alignment of the Marsh Fiber pathway between the Wallops Island NWR and the west side of Walker Marsh has changed from what was presented in the April 2020 Draft EA.  The alignment was moved slightly north to avoid crossing under private property; all project activities, both above and below ground, would now occur on federal or state-owned property.

Because the limits of disturbance associated with the proposed action on the Wallops Island NWR changed between the Draft EA and the FEA, NASA re-coordinated with federal, state, and local regulators including the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (VDHR). VDHR responded recommending that a Phase I archaeological survey of the new site be conducted. NASA is in the process of completing the archaeological survey and would not begin work on the Wallops Island NWR until coordination is complete. Because all permits and coordination are complete for the Wallops Island and Walker Marsh project sites, NASA would start work on these portions of the project.

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Public Involvement

NASA and its Cooperating Agency, the USFWS, published a Notice of Availability (NOA) in the Eastern Shore News, Chincoteague Beacon, and Eastern Shore Post to announce the 30-day public comment period of the Marsh Fiber Draft EA and the availability of a presentation of the Marsh Fiber project and the NEPA EA process.  Due to the situation with COVID-19, Governor Northam's resulting Temporary Stay at Home Order (Executive Order 55), and in the interest of public safety, NASA did not hold a public meeting for the Draft EA.  The EA, the public presentation, and the project Fact Sheet were available online.  In preparing the FEA, NASA considered all comments received on the Draft EA.  Comments on the Draft EA and NASA's responses to each comment are provided in Appendix A of the FEA.

For any questions regarding the Marsh Fiber EA or FONSI, or NASA WFF's NEPA program, please contact:

   Shari Miller
   NASA Wallops Flight Facility
   Mailstop: 250.W
   Wallops Island, VA 23337
   (757) 824-2327


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