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Miami Port Deep Dredge
gets green light in Tallahassee in back room deal.

Fla Legislative Session, 2012: House Bill 599 and Senate Bill 1998 both have gotten added language specifically to stop lawsuits against the Port of Miami Deep Dredge. These transportation bills now impose restrictions on people trying to stop wasteful government spending or petitioning on other projects, but particularly points to those already engaged in administrative hearings on the Port of Miami project.

Deep Dredge Threat to Biscayne Bay

See the youtube video. Go to Battle for Biscayne Bay

Biscayne National Park Equals Visitors, Money and Jobs for South Florida Economy

Biscayne National Park News Release
A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 467,612 visitors in 2010 spent $30.7 million in Biscayne National Park and in nearby communities. That spending supported more than 400 jobs in the area. "The people and the business owners in communities near national parks have always known their economic value," said park superintendent Mark Lewis. "Biscayne National Park is clean, green fuel for the engine that drives our local economy."

Most of the spending/jobs are related to lodging, food, and beverage service (52 percent) followed by other retail (29 percent), entertainment/amusements (10 percent), gas and local transportation (7 percent) and groceries (2 percent). The figures are based on $12 billion of direct spending by 281 million visitors in 394 national parks and nearby communities and are included in an annual, peer-reviewed, visitor spending analysis conducted by Dr. Daniel Stynes of Michigan State University for the National Park Service. Across the U.S, local visitor spending added a total of $31 billion to the national economy and supported more than 258,000 jobs, an increase of $689 million and 11,500 jobs over 2009.

To download the report visit www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/products.cfm#MGM and click on Economic Benefits to Local Communities from National Park Visitation and Payroll, 2010. The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state. For more on how the NPS is working within Florida, go to www.nps.gov/state/fl

January, 2012: Environmental Groups Sound Alarm on Impacts of Port of Miami Dredging and Tunnel Projects on Biscayne Bay

Legal Challenge Filed to Protect Biscayne Bay

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection authorized the US Army Corps of Engineers to deepen and widen the Port of Miami. The proposed permit is now the subject of a legal challenge by Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper and others claiming that there are insufficient safeguards to protect Biscayne Bay, despite there being Florida laws calling for protection. Sierra Club Florida and Sierra Club Miami are supporting this legal challenge. Sierra Club members who want to get involved in this issue should email the Miami Group Chair, miami-chair@florida.sierraclub.org

Major environmental and civic groups in Miami are asking the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to slow down the environmental permitting process for the proposed Port of Miami deep dredge project to assure the utmost protection for the fragile natural resources of Biscayne Bay, Miami Beach, and even the Florida Keys.

Seagrass beds, coral reefs and water quality will be impacted by blasting, boring and dredging that are proposed as part of the expansion projects at the Port of Miami, that seek to attract Post-Panamax freighter ships, the largest in the world. The secondary, cumulative environmental impacts of transforming the Port of Miami into a major industrial port -- have also not been properly explored nor assessed, the groups state. These impacts include subjecting the shallow bay and off shore coral reefs to increased risk of oil spills and groundings.

"There should be no shortcuts in either the costs that will be incurred to ensure best management practices or employing the least environmentally harmful methods available," stated a letter sent to Mr. Michael Carothers, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems.

The 12-page letter was signed by representatives of environmental groups representing thousands of Floridians, including: Sierra Club Miami Group, the National Parks and Conservation Association, (NPCA), Tropical Audubon Society, Friends of Biscayne Bay, Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper, Izaak Walton League, the Environmental Coalition of Miami and Miami Beaches, Surfrider Miami, Urban Environment League, Urban Paradise Guild, and Clean Water Action. The letter was also sent to public officials in Miami Dade County, including the newly-elected Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez as well as City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and City of Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower.

Among the issues discussed were:
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection Project Manager for the Port of Miami Dredging project is: Michael Carothers, FDEP Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems, phone (850) 413-7765; E-mail: michael.carothers@dep.state.fl.us

March 4, 2011 Press Release
Reaction to Governor Scott's pledge of $77 million
to the Port of Miami Dredging Project

The Port of Miami dredging project is expensive and the $77 million promised by Gov. Scott merely gets the project started. This in no way is the total price tag for the project.

Other Ports are also dredging to accommodate these ships so it is not clear the boon of
new commerce claimed by Gov. Scott will ever arrive.

Dredging is NOT needed to accommodate current ships that use the Port including cruise ships that are shallow flat bottom boats. The plan is to dynamite a portion of the off shore reef at the entrance of the Port and increase the depth of the Port by 8 feet. The blasting will be highly disruptive to fishing, recreational sports, sea grass beds due to sediment in the water form blasting and threatened animals like the Manatee and Porpoise. The Army Corp of Engineers Environmental Impact Statement notes these impacts.

The widened Panama Canal will accommodate not only some larger container ships but also increased ship traffic through the Panama Canal, which should benefit the Port of Miami regardless. This was described in a recent Miami Today article.

Miami roads and specifically I-95 can not support a dramatic increase in trucks transporting cargo off loaded from large cargo ships. Costs of further widening I-95 and the costs of lost productivity by South Floridians from sitting in their cars in a clogged highway system also need to be considered.

See also: Effects of Dredging on Virginia Key

How Can we Live with Destruction?

The Miami Sierra Club urges the public to comment immediately on the outrageous plans for the expansion of the Port of Miami. These plans include using explosives in the coral reefs off of Government Cut to blow-up and dredge the sea bottom all the way to the port. New science and research is available that shows how much this dredging process will disrupt marine life and habitats. We are compelled to act

For more information, you can download the following

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Water Quality Program.

Miami Sierrans fought hard to get the Marine Sanctuary designation for critical habitat areas of the Florida Keys. But once you have a sanctuary, how do you protect it? There are a lot of threats to the sanctuary, including trash dumping, illegal fishing and destruction of seabeds by poor anchoring. All of those have to be monitored by park service personal. But are those the only threats?

Recognizing the critical role of water quality in maintaining the resources of the Sanctuary, Congress directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Florida, Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), to develop a Water Quality Protection Program for the Sanctuary. This is the first such program ever developed for a marine sanctuary. The purpose of the Protection Program is to "recommend priority corrective actions and compliance schedules addressing point and multipoint sources of pollution to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Sanctuary, including restoration and maintenance of a balanced, indigenous population of corals, shellfish, fish, and wildlife, and recreational activities on the water" (Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Protection Act). In addition to corrective actions, the Act also requires the development of a water quality monitoring program and the provision of opportunities for public participation in all aspects of developing and implementing the program.

If you are interested in following the results of the monitoring program, check out Water Quality Monitoring
To learn more about this National Sanctuary, go to FLA KEYS MARINE SANCTUARY


Port of Miami Violations

Editorial by Nancy Lee

Recently, a massive coastal dredge and fill violation in Dade County, attributed to the Port of Miami, was discovered by the Department of Environmental Resource Management (DERM). It is still under investigation by DERM and the DEP. It is possible that the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are also looking into it.

The Port distributed a master plan in January of this year which said that Virginia Key and surrounding bay bottoms, are very sensitive and that they intend to be cautious in protecting the Bay in that area. However, in that area it is alleged that more than 5 acres of bay bottom was illegally dredged. The damage was done starting in 1995 and continuing until 1997.

The DEP has a 1997 permit application submitted by the Port to do the Central Turning Basin Widener, but apparently Dutra, the dredge company hired by the port, went out and excavated the area a year or two before the DEP received this application! The field survey for the DEP application was obviously false since the damage was there when the survey was conducted.

It appears that for 10 or 15 days, Dutra was dredging past the boundaries into water which was 2 to 5 feet deep, destroying more than 5 acres of sea grass. A State staff member said an employee at the port actually brought it up to his superiors. He pointed out that there appeared to be too much dredge material.

The Engineer of Record on port paperwork, Bermello, Ajamil & Partners, Inc., denies being the Engineer of Record during the incident. The Engineer should have been overseeing the dredge company. However, there are no written records verifying the Engineering firm was no longer the Engineer of Record, overseeing the dredging. Dutra has since filed for bankruptcy. Dutra's surety company is in litigation with the Port according to a DEP staff member.

To compound the problem, the Army Corps was doing some research on the ocean floor and found numerous piles of dredge debris dumped illegally on the way out to a permitted, legal, offshore ocean site. DERM has gotten a submersible and is trying to trace the illegally dumped debris to its source, thinking it might be part of the illegal dredge.

Derm is also waiting to hear from the port on their mitigation plan.The problem with putting together a mitigation plan on this: no one site is big enough to mitigate for the amount of damage, they would need at least two or more sites. The water was 2 to 5 feet deep where the sea grass was destroyed, now the area is 30 feet deep - unsuitable for sea grass.

Besides the mitigation plan, DERM wants the original area at least partially restored. They want the port to put boulders down for fish habitat where the damage was done.

The waters to the South of the port (where this damage was done), is extraordinary in statewide significance for plant and wildlife (manatees, fish, sea grass, etc.).

- Nancy Lee

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