National Science Foundation releases Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement concerning the Green Bank Observatory

On Wednesday October 19th, the National Science Foundation released an Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement concerning the property and facilities of the Green Bank Observatory in northern Pocahontas County. The release also includes a Section 106 Consultation for the site – this refers to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. In this case the NSF would be tasked with determining whether this is a type of activity that could affect historic properties; historic properties being defined as properties that are included in the National Register of Historic Places or that meet the criteria for the National Register.

The preparation of the EIS harkens back to the 2012 advisory by the NSF’s Division of Astronomical Sciences portfolio review committee that recommended that the NSF divest its portfolio of certain telescope sites, including the Green Bank Observatory. Although the committee recognized the Green Bank Telescope as the world’s most sensitive single dish radio telescope at wavelengths shorter than 10cm, they said the GBT is not as critical to the New World New Horizons astronomical 10 year survey as the higher-ranked facilities.

In 2016, the NSF completed a feasibility study to inform and define options for the Green Bank Observatory’s future disposition that would involve significantly decreasing or eliminating NSF funding of the GBO. Through the EIS scoping process, including public input, the NSF has identified 5 preliminary proposed alternatives:

• Continued NSF investment for science-focused operations
• Collaboration with interested parties for science and education focused operations with reduced NSF funding
• Collaboration with interested parties for operation as technology and education park
• Mothballing of the facilities (with suspension of operations in a manner that could allow the site to resume at a later date)
• Deconstruction of the site and restoration to its original landscape

The land on which the GBO is located belongs to the NSF. The Allegheny Trail passes through portions of the property along the Little Mountain ridgeline. The GBO is also the administrative site for the 13,000 square mile National Radio Quiet Zone. Facilities at the site include the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, the 43 meter telescope, the Green Bank Solar Radio Burst Spectrometer, the 20 meter Geodectic telescope, the 40 foot telescope and the Interferometer Range.

Residents and other interested parties will have a change to make public comments directly to NSF representatives during two meeting to be held on November 9th 2016 at the GBO, from 3 to 5pm and from 6 to 8pm at the Green Bank Observatory science Center.

To submit written comments to the National Science Foundation:

Email to: with the subject line “Green Bank Observatory”

Mail to: Elizabeth Pentecost, RE: Green Bank Observatory, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Blvd, Suite 1045, Arlington, VA 22230

Story By

Heather Niday

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