Fight over Port Everglades: USACE and Environmentalists face off over Dredging Project
Drawing of finished Deep Dredge project. Source: miami-dade.gov
Many are not happy about what happened in Miami. In 2016, the PortMiami Deep Dredging project was completed, leading the way for Post-Panamax cargo vessels to enter the port and opening up the Southern United States into global trade. Despite the proposed economic benefits, local environmentalists are incensed. Over 1100m of coral reef was heavily damaged during the dredging process, affecting 10x more of the fragile ecosystem than speculated in the Deep Dredging environmental impact study.
Now Port Everglades wants to dredge.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), those in charge of the PortMiami project, is now in the middle of a massive expansion endeavor in Port Everglades. The first of three stages is already complete– the construction of an on-port rail facility in conjunction with the Florida East Coast Railway– and USACE is waiting for the go ahead of stage 2 to begin dredging to widen the deep water turnaround area 5 cargo berths. This widening means the destruction of 8 acres of mangroves, but a conservational easement is already underway to plant twice the acreage as well as implementing environmental improvements to West Lake Park.
That’s not what environmentalists are worried about.
During the PortMiami project, over 250 acres of “critical habitat” reef was harmed by sediment produced through dredging. Leftover sediment covered areas home to the threatened staghorn corals, and turned a once teeming underwater environment into a dusty wasteland. Many are worried that the reef around Port Everglades will suffer the same fate.
Taking it to the courts.
“The reefs provide huge environmental and economic benefits to South Florida,” Tom Ingram, the President of the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association, explains. “The entire recreational diving community, especially in Fort Lauderdale […] depends upon a healthy reef environment.”
The purpose of the Deep Dredge project, according to the USACE, is to “bring the port in 21st Century shipping by accomodating existing and future vessel movement.” The three-fold undertaking was projected to create 7,000 new jobs regionally and support 135,000 jobs statewide over the next 15 years, as well as widening and deepening the Port Everglades channel to 50 feet and bring freight rail to the Port, which would in turn quicken land logistics to and from the port. Deepening the channel provides access for Post-Panamax cargo vessels, which carry over twice the cargo of original Panamax vessels. Overall, the Port Everglades expansion is a positive economic step; the question remains, however, is it an appropriate ecological one?
Source: Markus Spiske