ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Dec. 26 (UPI) -- Alaska's aerospace agency says it intends to renew its federal permit to launch rockets from Kodiak despite environmental concerns over the effect on sea lions.
The marine mammals, a protected species, come ashore on Ugak Island, a rocky, uninhabited island 3 to 5 miles downrange from the launch pad area at the Alaska Aerospace Development Corp.'s Kodiak Launch Complex, the Anchorage Daily News reported Saturday.
The main concern is the noise of the rockets as they pass over the island and the effect the sound can have in frightening endangered Stellar sea lions and harbor seals, perhaps sending seals scrambling into the sea possibly trampling pups or separating nursing pups from their mothers.
The U.S. Commerce Department and two of its agencies seeking to renew the permit downplayed the effects of launches on the species.
"The infrequent and brief nature of these sounds that would result from a rocket launch is not expected to alter the population dynamics of Steller sea lions or harbor seals which utilize Ugak Island as a haul-out site," the agencies said in their permit filing.
The Kodiak complex was originally built to launch communications satellites into polar orbits, but the company intending to use the facility ran into financial difficulties early on.
Its main use now is by the U.S. military to launch targets for missile defense tests, the Daily News said.