Over a dozen South Florida businesses and environmental organizations joined Miami Waterkeeper and the Center for Biological Diversity last week in demanding that the Army Corps of Engineers revaluate its Port Everglades expansion plan in light of the recent impacts to nearby Miami’s reef during its recent port expansion.
In a 15-page letter, the groups detailed the Corps’ multiple failures to protect coral reef resources during the recent Port of Miami Deep Dredge Project and how “lessons learned” to protect Port Everglades’ reefs have not been incorporated into plans to expand Port Everglades.
The marine waters and reefs of Port Everglades — Fort Lauderdale, Dania Beach and Hollywood — contain invaluable, highly sensitive habitats and species that live in the only coral reef in the continental United States. They support the fisheries, water sports and tourism industries, and are the first line of defense against hurricane waves and surge.
“The Corps claims it’s a ‘learning agency,’ but all plans so far show that the Corps is not intending to improve its practices in Port Everglades after destroying over 200 acres of reef in Miami, and with this letter we show our intent to push for better protection for Fort Lauderdale’s reefs,” said Rachel Silverstein, executive director of Miami Waterkeeper.
“It’s outrageous that the Army Corps would stubbornly refuse to learn from its recent mistakes. Florida’s coral reefs are a national treasure that deserve to be protected,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Rather than diving headlong into the Port Everglades project, the Army Corps needs to step back, learn the lessons of the fiasco at the Port of Miami, and do right by our coral reefs.”
The letter cites reports from NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, the EPA and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, each documenting severe coral mortality and damage to the reef habitat that far exceed what had been permitted for during the Miami dredge project. The Miami project smothered hundreds of acres of coral reef, stretching as far as 3,000 feet from the channel — almost 10 times the anticipated amount of impact.
Since the Port Everglades dredging project is based on the same now-disproven assumptions as the Miami project, the groups are asking the Army Corps to reinitiate Endangered Species Act consultation with the expert agency, the Fisheries Service, about the effects of the Port Everglades expansion on protected corals in the area, and apply the lessons learned from the Miami dredging project.