Environmentalists Drop Lawsuit Against Port of Miami Deep Dredge

Published Nov 19, 2012 3:17 PM by The Maritime Executive

Following a five-month legal battle, environmentalists have lightened up on their protesting over the plan to deepen the Port of Miami using explosive charges.

Three opposing action groups have dropped lawsuits surrounding the project in an exchange for legal fees and the creation of a trust fund totaling $1,310,000. The fund will be used to lessen the environmental effects of the deep dredge and help the Bay recover, as well as ensuring the initiation of projects to plant mangroves and sea grass, restore dunes, and plant both natural and artificial coral reefs.

Organizations like the Tropical Audubon Society and the Biscayne Bay Water Keeper, as well as numerous local boat captains came together in an effort to stop the dredge from happening, mainly through lawsuits. They mainly just want to ensure that Biscayne Bay will be able to be rejuvenated once the blasting ends.

Reportedly, the draft permit submitted for the port deepening did not fully protect the Bay, sparking the activists’ intervention. They maintain that although the port drives Florida’s economy substantially, people don’t seem to recognize that Biscayne Bay is also an economic driver. Just as the Deepwater Horizon tragedy affected Gulf tourism, a two-year dredge project could do the same, quotes Miami New Times.

Since there was no stopping the project, their new goal was to make the permit stronger and reduce the damage. However, while the settlement ensures greater monitoring and restoration, the opposing groups still feel it does nothing to reduce the amount or depth of dredging. On the positive side, any problems will be able to be noticed as they happen.

The Army Corps of Engineers claims that there will be no significant impact from the dredging, but their main argument is that whenever you change the turbidity, you affect the food web. Sea grass will be impacted and their belief is that this project cannot be completed without hurting the ecosystem.

Environmentalists did win another concern, 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, again reports Miami New Times.