Jacksonville’s Naval Station Mayport is one of three bases where the Navy is considering headquartering its East Coast drone operations. The project would bring 400 jobs to Mayport.
Naval Air Station Key West and NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia are also being considered for the drone base. The selected base would become home to four MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft System planes “in order to enhance maritime ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] capabilities.”
That’s according to the draft environmental assessment the Navy released Tuesday.
Construction at the selected base would begin next year, with all unmanned aircraft arriving by 2023.
The Navy has evaluated the three sites on factors including potential effects on wildlife, water quality and the area’s economy, and determined there are no “significant” negative ones at any of them. Read the entire environmental assessment here.
If Mayport is chosen, the construction would cause the loss of seven acres of gopher tortoise habitat, though any tortoises would be relocated before building.
The draft environmental assessment also says the loss of wildlife habitat could be exacerbated by the effects of climate change over the next century. The Navy calls the North Florida coast among the country’s “most vulnerable” to sea-level rise.
The draft assessment will be available for comment here starting Sept. 1, as well as at the main Jacksonville Library, the Beaches Library in Neptune Beach, and the Fernandina Beach Library. The Navy is asking for comment on the draft through Oct. 1.