Deep Dredge Critics Use Drones, Planes, and Satellites to Show Damage to Biscayne Bay

Categories: Environmental

Dredge_plane_Kipnis_small.jpg
Courtesy of Capt. Dan Kipnis
What the Deep Dredge looked like from Capt. Dan Kipnis's chartered sea plane
Two years ago, environmentalists desperately tried to derail the Deep Dredge. They claimed the $2 billion plan to deepen the Port of Miami would kill wildlife in Biscayne Bay, so they sued to stop it. But when a bevy of state agencies lined up against them -- threatening dredge opponents with outrageous legal fees -- the environmentalists were forced to cut a deal and walk away. The dredge went ahead.

For a year and a half, these environmentalists focused on other issues. But when fleets of ships finally began scraping the bottom of the bay in December, activists went on alert. Like superheroes called out of their secret lairs, some have gone to incredible lengths to document the damage the dredge is doing.

"There is something rotten going on here," says Dan Kipnis, a retired Biscayne Bay boat captain. "Something really rotten."

See also: Colin Foord Braves Bad Weather and Giant Eels to Save Sea Creatures From Deep Dredge

Kipnis began hearing from fishing buddies about the dredge in February. They described giant plumes of silt spreading for miles out to sea, making it difficult to fish.

Kipnis had been one of those to sue to stop the dredge in the first place and had fought hard to require the Army Corps of Engineers -- which is in charge of the project -- to post dredge data online. When he checked them, however, he was stunned.

"Man, did it look like a clean operation," he says. "The numbers looked terrific."

Dredge_water_sample_Kipnis_small.jpg
Courtesy of Capt. Dan Kipnis
Capt. Dan Kipnis says he caught contractors for the Army Corps of Engineers taking bogus water readings in Biscayne Bay
So he did some sleuthing. Google images showed giant, milky clouds spreading from the dredge ships like Alka-Seltzer dropped into a glass of water. Kipnis used astronomical data and the Pythagorean theorem to calculate the exact time of the photos and then compared them to the immaculate dredge data. It simply didn't add up.

Kipnis considered using a specially equipped drone to take his own water samples from shore -- a tactic taken by buddies of his to stop dredging in Broward County.

Instead, on June 25, he hired a sea plane to fly him over the dredge. He watched as hopper ships seeped dredge sludge like massive, metallic slugs slinking across the sea.

Finally, on July 7, Kipnis took a boat out to the dredge. He watched as a private contractor took turbidity readings -- nowhere near the dredge site.

"We caught their tester in his boat taking readings outside the plume, in clean water," Kipnis says. So the boat captain took his own water samples. They came back twice the legal limit -- high enough to get the entire dredge shut down. "They are gaming the system!" Kipnis claims.

He's not the only one who says the corps isn't being honest. Fishermen complain they can't catch anything in mucky water. Dive companies say clients are complaining about poor visibility. And scientists say silt from the dredge is coating coral reefs.

"We're seeing coral buried under a centimeter of silt," marine biologist Colin Foord says. "This [dredging] is supposed to go on for another year. Some of the coral may not survive."

On July 17, Kipnis, Foord, Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper, and the Tropical Audubon Society filed formal notice of their intent to sue the corps and its contractor for improperly monitoring the dredge and for damaging the bay with its dirty plumes.

The ruckus they are raising may be working. The morning the environmentalists filed their motion, the dredge ships disappeared from Biscayne Bay.

The corps says its main ship was struck by lightning, and that the stoppage has nothing to do with damage from the dredge.

But Kipnis claims the corps was cleaning up its act before divers from Florida's Department of Environmental Protection could inspect the site last week.

The boat captain's efforts to catch the corps cheating may sound like a convoluted spy novel, but Kipnis says his message is simple.

"If we kill what's growing there in the bay," he says, "it might never come back."

Send your tips to the author, or follow him on Twitter @MikeMillerMiami.

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes.


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49 comments
samueljackson864
samueljackson864 topcommenter

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Chris Funk
Chris Funk

The dredging is a necessity for the port to keep up with the new generation of container ships. It's on the state and federal government for not having any serious requirements for compensatory reef development or a sincere environmental impact assessment.

Tony Patrone
Tony Patrone

what did they think a dredge was? when a boat runs into land? lmao.. "activists" is probably an incorrect term for what these people are doing... A real question should be, who is PAYING for their "documenting"

Joseph Mazon
Joseph Mazon

Give it a minute people, this has all happened before. Once dredging stops, nature will recover, particularly if we happen to get a hurricane this summer that hits Downtown Miami.

Chantil Dukart
Chantil Dukart

Good for him. When all else fails, take your own samples!

Ronnie Tyler
Ronnie Tyler

Human Race is doomed. "We really did it this time!"

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

..................this is why we can't have nice things


J Jess Jessi Abalos
J Jess Jessi Abalos

The ChineseChinese want to bring in bigger ships damn the environment. F*cking *ssholes

James G. Camp
James G. Camp

Nobody wins in this, the government is dredging that area so that commerce can keep up with the overpopulation that the masses can't control for themselves. So we have the ones that want to sue to make a buck off that, so they get paid off to disappear and shut up.

Stefano Alessio
Stefano Alessio

Good work, mad men of Miami. Soon enough, through the collective, money-focused efforts of mindless fools such as yourselves, you will succeed in destroying the fragile fabric of the world's ecological systems that support our lives. "Our entire much-praised technological progress, and civilization generally, could be compared to an axe in the hand of a pathological criminal." - Albert Einstein

Mency Acosta
Mency Acosta

Sad that the government wants to destroy the planet.

Anthonyvop1
Anthonyvop1 topcommenter

The Port of Miami has been dredged before and the Bay was fine.

The Port of Miami is 100% man made including Dodge Island and the bay is fine.

Those Coral and other sea life in the port and government Cut wouldn't even exist if it was for the dredging.

 

A little dirt, while unattractive, is temporary and will cause little or no permanent harm.  All those miles of beaches(The stuff that is the closest to real nature most of the posters here experience) is made up of pretty much the same stuff and yet nobody complains about that.

The Fisherman and divers who complain about the visibility are just lazy and full of their own self-importance.  Instead of moving a few miles to other areas while the dredging goes on they want to stop the project because how dare they actually adapt? I go out all the time and because I am not a jerk, enjoy clean, clear conditions.

Once the dredging is done I will return to Government Cut for what I expect to be some fine nigh-time night fishing for Tarpon and Snook.


Most of these self-appointed protectors of the environment are nothing more than haters of progress and commerce.   Luddites!

Alex Pappas
Alex Pappas

everything in miami is for sale to the highest bidder. nothing is sacred.

nytronics83
nytronics83

There's almost 500K people living in Miami. Don't leave it up to just these environmentalists to get their hands dirty. Step in and protect your environment. 


With everyone speaking out this ridiculous dredging can be terminated. Like so many people in small towns opposing big fracking.


We must all take a stand because our government will do nothing to protect our beautiful nation from corrupt and greedy corporations. 

Michael Lemme
Michael Lemme

This is terrible. The long term effects are not good at all

HarryTheHandyman
HarryTheHandyman topcommenter

Drone or remote control helicopters?  Lets use the word drones!  Its the hot buzzword.

Juanita Lopez
Juanita Lopez

Justin , do you remember me telling about this ?

Tony Prieto
Tony Prieto

Lauren Devine, it's a shame those drones don't have rockets!

Bev Armstrong
Bev Armstrong

I am so disappointed in BIG MONEY and sneaky power tactics ruining our little paradise!

Monica Lopez
Monica Lopez

Depressing. With the fragile ecosystem Biscayne Bay has, you'd think they would have laws in place to protect events such as this from occuring. I guess it's too much to ask to have a natural environment full of fish and coral for future generations.

Lauren Devine
Lauren Devine

I hate this! But it is good we are using the drones and satellites to show why this project should NOT move forward.

Jose Arpajon
Jose Arpajon

Do we really need to make the port deeper? We already have mega ships going in and out the port without issue. Somebody is masking alot of money raping our seas!

Tony Prieto
Tony Prieto

Lauren Devine is not going to like this at all!

MikeMillerMiami
MikeMillerMiami

@dantevida Hey Dante. I work for the New Times and wrote this article. Is there a number or email at which I can reach you? You can contact me at michael.miller@miaminewtimes.com

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