Port of Miami Deep Dredge Clears Final Hurdle As Environmentalists Drop Lawsuit

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Prepare to be dredged.

After a five-month legal standoff over a controversial plan to deepen the Port of Miami using explosive charges, environmentalists have relented. Three groups opposed to the project have dropped their lawsuit in exchange for legal fees and the establishment of a $1,310,000 trust fund to mitigate effects of the deep dredge.

"Their permit sucked," says Biscayne Bay boat captain Dan Kipnis, one of the plaintiffs. "This permit doesn't suck as much."

Last November, Kipnis joined the Tropical Audubon Society and Biscayne Bay Water Keeper in suing to stop the Deep Dredge. Like Kipnis, Tropical Audubon executive director Laura Reynolds insists that the settlement was what was best for the Bay.

"We've got to help Biscayne Bay come back after they are done blasting," she says. "For the first time, the public will be able to see the data collected in real time, and to see for themselves if a violation happens."

"The reason why we intervened from beginning was that the draft permit was not protective enough of Biscayne Bay," Reynolds explains. "The economic driver argument behind the port was so strong, we wanted to make sure that people understood that Biscayne Bay was also an economic driver."

"You saw what BP oil spill did to tourism in the Gulf," she says. "A two year dredge project could have an even worse affect."

Reynolds says that, once it was clear that there was no stopping the project, the goal was to make the permit "stronger" and reduce the damage.

But she admits that while the settlement ensures greater monitoring and restoration, it does nothing to reduce the amount or depth of dredging.

We didn't get everything that we wanted," Reynolds concedes. "But the county agreed to a lot more monitoring and restoration. We will be able to see the problems as they happen." She added that the $1.31 million trust fund ensures that projects to plant mangroves and sea grass, restore dunes, and plant both natural and artificial coral reefs won't be empty promises.

"Those things will help Biscayne recover," she says. But Reynolds still doesn't buy the idea that the dredge can be done without damaging the Bay."The Army Corps (of Engineers) claims that there will be no impact, but it is just not true," she says. "Whenever you change the turbidity you affect the food web. Sea grass will be impacted... you just cannot do this project without hurting the ecosystem."

Environmentalists did win another concession, however. If county commissioners approve the settlement on May 1, it will bar Army engineers from blasting for an hour and a half after sunrise and before sunset, when sea life is most active.

Kipnis said he was "not thrilled" by the agreement, but had little choice. "If we lost (the complaint), they were going to go after us for attorney fees," he says. "I don't want to spend the rest of my life homeless because of Biscayne Bay. So what I tried to do was get the best deal possible."

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes. Follow this journalist on Twitter @MikeMillerMiami.

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16 comments
Typical stupid decision
Typical stupid decision

The jerk who is the current Port Director only cares about his pay and benefits. Obviously, the natural Eco-systems take years and decades to develope and the Port will destroy them in seconds.

It has yet to be proven larger ships will come and if they will have ANY NET BENEFIT.

And who will pay to maintain the new tunnel?

Marvin 'Mr.Miami" Tapia
Marvin 'Mr.Miami" Tapia

"There is NO city in the world like Miami, there ISN'T!" This is so true! This project will do more harm than good. Are we the only ones that see that? Do they only see dollar signs?Please, Mike, I would love to help, My name is Marvin Tapia, I am in PR and marketing and have quite a following. I would LOVE to help out in any way possible. follow me on Twitter @MrMiamiMarvin:disqus and we can talk more. Please and thank you,

btw, great article.

Anthonyvop
Anthonyvop

This is why I hate Liberals and environmentalists.

They want to protect the "ecology" of the port from Explosives and dredging.........

The very same port that was CREATED WITH EXPLOSIVES AND DREDGING!!!

Facts and logic escapes them

AnotherBoondoggle
AnotherBoondoggle

How much was the overall cost of the project, something like $2 billion?   $1.3 million is like 0.001 percent of that!

Putting $1.3 million towards planting mangroves/sea grass, restoring dunes, and creating reefs isn't going to go very far at all.

Bay needs protection
Bay needs protection

Miami-Dade County and Port of Miami officials are corrupt and stupid. Sometimes both. Deep dredging WILL harm Biscayne Bay.

Laura Reynolds
Laura Reynolds

Mr Miami,

You can help by joining and helping to support groups like Tropical Audubon and Biscayne Bay Water Keeper.

Anthonyvop
Anthonyvop

 Marvin,

How will it do more harm than good if it didn't before?

Sir Sausage
Sir Sausage

 Uh, they want to protect Biscayne Bay, NOT the port.

nanook5
nanook5

you can't even "recreate" coral reefs at this point. we've been trying for decades and theyre dying too fast.

Laura Reynolds
Laura Reynolds

I think you should talk to some of the old timers who used to fish in the waters of Biscayne Bay...it is what scientists call "shifting baselines" If you have only been around for the last 10 years you never knew what it was like 50 years ago. If you have only been around for 2-5 years...things are fine. But if you have been here your whole life you can see Biscayne Bay has declined significantly and we can only expect so much resiliency from the natural systems that support us.

Anthonyvop
Anthonyvop

 The Port is in Biscayne Bay and the bay survived quite nicely the first 3 times they used explosives and dredged the port.

Why would it be worse now?  I'll answer for you.  It won't.

Sir Sausage
Sir Sausage

Do you have any research data to back your claim?

Anthonyvop
Anthonyvop

 Actually I have fished and sail on Biscayne Bay since the early 70'sThe Bay is in much better shape now than it has been in my lifetime.  When they dredged back then the recovery was measured in just a few short months,

Anyway...Still waiting for someone to explain how using explosive and dredging caused no permanent damage then and yet it will now.

nanook5
nanook5

 the environmental damage from all those projects is massive. a port is not an eco-system, unless you consider a landfill or a coal mine an "eco-system" too. it's the absence of a natural habitat.

Sir Sausage
Sir Sausage

Were any environmental studies performed when the area was initially dredged in the early 1900s and the fill used to create all the artificial landmasses?  What about those other 2 times?  It would be nice if such info were available for perusal.

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