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,” was stated in a letter sent Friday, July 1, 2001 to Mr. Michael Carothers, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems.
“The full of amount of highest quality mitigation is required to protect our existing resources as well. Quality mitigation should restore habitats to extent possible to keep intact resources healthy, effectively resolving anticipated issues, as well as account for any likely yet unanticipated secondary impacts.” The 12-page letter was signed by representatives of environmental groups representing thousands of Floridians, including: the National Parks and Conservation Association, (NPCA), Tropical Audubon Society, Friends of Biscayne Bay, Sierra Club Miami Group, 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.
Among the issues discussed:
1. A plan to use Virginia Key, a 1,000 acre barrier island with the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve that is home to a state-designated critical wildlife area, as a disposal site for port tunnel and dredge materials.
2. The impacts of 600 days of blasting in areas never previously impacted by past dredging projects, including coral reefs off Miami Beach.
3. Water quality issues in Biscayne Bay, revered for crystal clear waters and extensive seagrass beds that are essential habitat for endangered species, including manatees and sea turtles. As a designated “Outstanding Florida Water,” the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve, state standards call for “no degradation of water quality.”
4. Insufficient consideration of all natural resources impacted due to the Army Corps not taking into account that latest studies and assessments that reflect current conditions and resources.
5. Contamination from spoil materials within the Aquatic Preserve, including use of dredging or excavated materials for fill.
6. Secondary and cumulative impacts of port expansion projects, including groundings and oil spills in Biscayne Bay, Florida Bay and the Florida Keys from increased port activities and larger size of vessels.