Source: Maritime Executive
March 9th 2015
The Port of Miami’s Deep Dredge project was initiated to accommodate the influx of Post-Paramax vessels that will be using the new Panama Canal. Recently, a government-sponsored dive exposed additional dangers to the endangered corals near the dredge site, which are dead or dying.
At the onset of the $205 million project, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in conjunction with state and federal agencies, created a plan to mitigate damages to the environment and oversee operations, which would reduce the imprint the dredging on the marine ecosystem. Also, before the Deep Dredge Project began, marine biologist Colin Foord along with other environmental stakeholders were allotted a few weeks to transfer live coral from the area, which resulted in over 2,000 corals relocations to nearby areas including laboratories.
Despite all of the precautionary measures to protect they aquatic marine life, the dredging project continues to raises concerns from activists and environmentalists. A major concern is now for the well-being of staghorn coral, which is a listed in the Endangered Species Act. Meanwhile, the corps has relocated about 924 other coral varieties, but after the initial survey by contractors in 2010, the staghorn is in danger and divers have recently found dead or dying stretches of the coral buried under layers of sediment.
A report performed by NOAA has reported that 23% of the staghorn coral in the dredging area was dead or dying since the onset of the project. Last October, environmentalist groups sued and there was a settlement of $400,000 to relocate the staghorn coral from the project area. But, activists claim that not enough is being done to preserve the reefs.
Since additional damaged coral has been discovered, the corps and other federal agencies have been making additional efforts to see what went wrong during the initial process and to more efficiently implement a plan to mitigate marine damage during the remainder of the project. NOAA has also approved the immediate relocation of some 38 coral systems near the Deep Dredge Project.
Environmentalists say the situation is imperative because the Port Everglades, in Broward County some 25 miles from Port Miami is home to even more staghorn coral. The Port Everglades expansion is expected to deepen the navigation channel from 42 feet to 48 feet as well as widen the entrance channel. The $1.6 billion Port Everglades project is expected to create about 5,000 new jobs in the complex, which is expected to be by 2022.