Miami Beach leaders reject legal action to fix yacht woes

01/18/2014 12:00 AM

01/18/2014 9:41 AM

The city of Miami Beach and local boating interests decided Friday that lobbying instead of lawsuits is the best recourse for solving a looming nautical blockade in Biscayne Bay when the boat shows come to town next month.

At a city hall meeting, representatives of the Yacht & Brokerage Show and other boating groups presented their case to the city’s administrative and legal staff for forcing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move three pilings and silt curtains squeezing an often-used but unmarked east-west boat channel just north of the Julia Tuttle Causeway. The barriers mark the edge of a 16-acre sea grass restoration project underway as mitigation for PortMiami expansion. Mariners and the Coast Guard say the project could cause large yachts to run aground when making their way from the Intracoastal Waterway to berths on the Indian Creek Waterway.

Dane Graziano, senior vice president of Show Management, which puts on the Yacht & Brokerage Show, said the Corps promised at a previous meeting to maintain a 100-foot wide channel at least 12 feet deep. But the show hired a marine surveyor who found Thursday night that the corridor is only about 40 feet wide and 8 feet deep at high tide in one dog-legged section. So far, the Army Corps has refused to remove the pilings that are narrowing the corridor.

City attorney Jose Smith ruled out filing a federal lawsuit to force the Corps’ hand.

“Ain’t gonna happen,” Smith said. “If we were to do this, we would get slammed. That’s an exercise I’m not willing to engage in.”

City Manager Jimmy Morales suggested the boaters prepare a position paper that Mayor Philip Levine can present to lawmakers when he goes to Washington, D.C., next week.

The show runs Feb. 13-17, but large yachts start moving into Indian Creek on Feb. 6.

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