SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk suggested this week that the company’s Cybertruck will be waterproof — and seaworthy enough to navigate a channel crossing from South Padre Island, Texas, to the SpaceX Starbase at Boca Chica Beach.
“Cybertruck will be waterproof enough to serve briefly as a boat, so it can cross rivers, lakes & even seas that aren’t too choppy,” Musk posted on Twitter Thursday.
In a second post, he added: “Needs to be able to get from Starbase to South Padre Island, which requires crossing the channel.”
South Padre Island is separated from Boca Chica Beach, where Starbase is located, by the Brownsville Ship Channel, as well as South Bay, a coastal preserve in the Lower Laguna Madre. Driving by road from South Padre Island to Starbase is a 40-mile trip inland traveling southwest around the Port of Brownsville toward Brownsville and then east on Highway 4 toward Boca Chica Beach.
A direct trip from the island to the space launch facility across the shipping channel would shorten the distance to approximately 5 miles. The shipping channel’s Brazos Santiago Pass — which runs between the Isla Blanca Park and Boca Chica jetties — is several hundred feet wide.
‘It’s got to be a joke tweet,’ says South Padre Island conservationist
For Rob Nixon, co-chairman of the Surfrider Foundation’s South Texas Chapter on South Padre Island, Musk’s idea of an amphibious Cybertruck that crosses the Brownsville Ship Channel must have been a “joke tweet,” especially in the wake of ongoing efforts of his group to work with SpaceX toward securing public access to Boca Chica Beach.
“It’s got to be a joke tweet, in my opinion,” Nixon told ValleyCentral. “But it definitely hits people down here pretty hard because it is seriously like a slap in the face.”
Surfrider Foundation is a nonprofit organization works toward “the preservation and protection of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches for everyone to enjoy,” Nixon said Friday.
“I mean, you can’t, unless the thing floats you’re not gonna get across the channel,” Nixon said. “But it’s just like a slap in the face. I mean, he tweets out a solution — or I guess an alleged solution — to a problem he has caused.”
The organization and others have been advocating for protections to the general public’s ability to access Boca Chica Beach, which is accessible to motorists only via State Highway 4. That roadway is frequently closed to the public by order of Cameron County because of safety concerns due to SpaceX testing and launch operations.
“Most weeks, five days a week, you don’t even know if you can get to Boca Chica,” Nixon said. “Yes, they do send out notices of closure, and they send out opening notices, but you never know when it’s going to happen. So when a closure comes out, they say the road will be closed from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Highway 4 — and then all of a sudden at 3 o’clock, ‘Oh, we’re done. Ok, you guys can come out now.’
“But that doesn’t allow people to plan to go out to the beach.”
The original agreement to allow SpaceX operations at the site did not provide for such frequent closures to Highway 4 and access to the beach there. However, Nixon said Cameron County and state leaders have granted SpaceX more frequent closures.
Nixon suggested that Musk is responsible for the road closures and is now offering a solution for beach access that involves buying a truck from his company.
“I don’t know if he is trolling us or not,” Nixon said about Musk’s tweets.
The best solution would be a ferry system from South Padre Island to Boca Chica Beach, Nixon said, because “building a causeways through South Bay would be an environmental wreck, in our opinion.”
“Going through South Bay with a heavy truck? Yeah, it would tear up the oyster beds and the bay grass for sure,” Nixon said. “That’s what makes South Bay so special, that area is pretty much untouched.”