FAIRBANKS - The scenic impact of a 25-story radar dome and platform stored in Valdez would be minimal because of the existing trans-Alaska oil pipeline terminal, the military has concluded.
Valdez is under consideration for storing the radar equipment between missile defense tests.
That assessment of the proposed "sea-based X-band radar" is contained in a final environmental impact statement on a portion of the missile defense testing system. The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency released the document last week.
The document reviews potential environmental effects of a wide range of facilities the agency might build or upgrade as part of a new missile defense "test bed" recommended by Pentagon planners.
In addition to upgrades in California and the South Pacific, the agency proposes to add launch pads at Alaska's state-owned Kodiak Launch Complex and build an X-band radar on top of an oil drilling platform that could be moved around the ocean during tests.
The radar and platform could be housed at one of several West Coast ports, including Valdez and Adak. The report does not recommend a particular home port, according to Maj. Cathy Reardon, spokeswoman for Missile Defense Agency in Arlington, Va.
The choice will be made by Gen. Ronald Kadish, head of the MDA, some time after Aug. 11 when a 30-day comment period on the final document ends, she said.
Valdez city manager Dave Dengel told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that the Valdez City Council adopted a resolution inviting the military to place the radar in Valdez Arm. Dengel said most people who attended a public meeting on the subject this spring were supportive.
The military is also eyeing Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific, Port Hueneme, Calif., and the naval station at Everett, Wash., for the radar home port.
Of those locations, only Everett has expressed official opposition, Reardon said, in part because of its effect on the view.
In Valdez, that should not be a problem, though some people might disagree, the report said.
"Because Valdez is the site of the terminus of the trans-Alaska pipeline, numerous oil tankers are consistently entering Prince William Sound, which would limit the impacts to visual resources caused by the sea-based test X-band radar," the impact statement concluded. "However, adverse impacts to visual resources could occur due to some concerned viewers and a high scenic integrity rating for the location."
The report concludes that Kodiak launch effects on wildlife, air and water would be minimal. The entire Pacific test bed will host about 10 launches a year, no more than five of which would be at any one facility, the report stated.
Target missiles could be one of four types, ranging from 10 to 22 feet long and weighing from 36,000 to 194,000 pounds.
Interceptor missiles would be made of two parts: a 54-foot, 25-ton booster rocket that pushes into outer space, topped by an "exoatmospheric kill vehicle" designed to seek out and destroy an enemy missile with impact alone. The booster would be powered with about 45,000 pounds of solid fuel, while the kill vehicle would use only 2 gallons of liquid fuel and 1.5 gallons of oxidizer.