With less than six weeks to go until the Miami International Boat Show’s flagship event opens at a new location on Virginia Key, the installation of hundreds of floating docks and more than 1,000 pilings in the placid waters of the Marine Stadium Basin has finally begun.
Contractors working for the National Marine Manufacturers Association started work on a 268,000-square-foot grid of floating docks Monday, one week after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed a five-year permit allowing the construction of the temporary facility. Crews will have 38 days to erect the floating exhibition area, putting a rush on what show organizers had hoped would be a 90-day window to set up and break down the docks.
An NMMA spokeswoman said the shorter time frame will require “some extra hours,” but shouldn’t complicate the show’s opening.
“We look forward to welcoming boating enthusiasts from across the globe to Miami in February. As we have for decades, we will operate the Show with respect for the environment and in compliance with all local, state and federal requirements,” show director Cathy Rick-Joule said in a statement.
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Crews hired by the city of Miami have already been working for months on the upland to the northeast of the Rickenbacker Causeway, paving the ground and erecting large tents in preparation for an event that ranks among Miami-Dade’s biggest annual tourist draws. But work in the water was held up until the NMMA was able to secure the federal permit, the last of three needed to pursue plans to dock and exhibit around 500 vessels in the basin — and up to 830 in future years.
Securing those permits — which include conditions to protect manatees, sea grasses and sea turtles — took nearly a full, drama-filled year in which environmentalists warned that the show’s move to Virginia Key would endanger protected sealife and encroach on a critical wildlife area on the other side of the basin. The Village of Key Biscayne also filed a lawsuit against the city of Miami to stop the creation of a $24 million exhibition space where the upland portion of the boat show will be held.
The Village of Key Biscayne is pursuing a challenge of the state’s permit, and is still able to challenge the federal and county permits, the latter of which is good for only two years. But with the issuance of the federal permit, it appears likely that the show will go off as planned, barring any major slip-ups.
The Village of Key Biscayne will remain vigilant as the region’s environmental watchdog, even as our legal challenges remain in play
Key Biscayne Mayor Mayra Peña Lindsay
“The Miami-Dade County Commission rejected the NMMA’s request for a 10-year permit and put in place over 60 conditions and restrictions that will keep the Boat Show on a very short leash, which is validation that this unnecessary and risky commercial venture requires intense scrutiny,” said Key Biscayne Mayor Mayra Peña Lindsay. “The Army Corp of Engineers has now issued similar onerous restrictions of their own and the Village of Key Biscayne will remain vigilant as the region’s environmental watchdog, even as our legal challenges remain in play.”