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Environmentalists Drop Challenge to Deepwater Dredging of Port of Miami

April 25, 2012 - 6:00pm

Environmentalists who had blocked the dredging of the Port of Miami channel down to 52 feet making it one of the deepest ports on the East Coast -- have withdrawn their opposition to the two-year project.

An agreement, which still needs approval from the Miami-Dade County Commission, means the Port of Miami may move forward with the $220 million state and county project -- the state is putting up $122 million -- aimed at making the port more attractive to the growing marine trade, as well as the massive Panamax ships using the expanded Panama Canal.

This is a win-win for the entire community, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez stated in a release.

The agreement provides additional funding for important environmental projects, while at the same time allowing for the timely completion of the dredge project, which is critical to our efforts to grow our container cargo traffic and create thousands of new, well-paying jobs in our community.

The Tallahassee-based Florida Ports Council, racing other East Coast states to prepare the state's port system for the growing trade from South America and through the canal, called the agreement a big deal for the port and for Florida.

Port Miami has long shown their dedication to the environment while providing jobs and goods to the South Florida community, Doug Wheeler, president of the Tallahassee-based Florida Ports Council, stated in a release. We are glad to see that all of the interested organizations have been able to come to an agreement that balances the environmental needs with the economic needs of that region.

In December, Tropical Audubon Society, Biscayne Bay Waterkeepers Inc. and a county resident, Dan Kipnis, who filed a petition with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, met the deadline to formally oppose a final, state-issued permit for the "deep dredge." The challengers contended that the two-year project would badly damage Biscayne Bay and kill protected wildlife.

As part of the agreement, the county will direct $1.3 million to its Biscayne Bay Environmental Enhancement Trust Fund and make additional donations to the nonprofit groups Tropical Audubon Society and Biscayne Bay Waterkeepers for projects designed to protect and restore Biscayne Bay.

According to a release, the county money will go to these projects: mangrove and wetland restoration at Oleta River State Park in North Miami; restoration of coastal dunes and plants along the north point of Virginia Key; monitoring of relocated coral colonies on the natural reef system; monitoring of small-fish populations in the seagrass beds; and the improvement of shoal marker and signage systems in the north part of the bay, including the Bill Sadowski Critical Wildlife Area.

Laura Reynolds, executive director of the Tropical Audubon Society, told the Miami Herald the agreement may not have addressed all their concerns, but it raised the bar on protecting Biscayne Bay and surrounding waters.

The agreement goes before the Miami-Dade County Commission on May 1.

Reach Jim Turner at or at (772) 215-9889.

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