Miami Beach environmental activist captain Dan Kipnis and several colleagues plan to go before the Beach City Commission Wednesday morning to try to avert what they call a public safety and economic nightmare.
Kipnis, chair of the Miami Beach Marine Authority, is expected to be joined by megayacht operators and others to plead for a halt to an environmental mitigation project now underway in Biscayne Bay just north of the Julia Tuttle Causeway/I-195.
A contractor for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has begun erecting pilings with silt curtains that narrow an unmarked, unofficial dredged channel about 1½ miles long used for decades by large yachts traveling east from the Intracoastal Waterway to reach berths along Indian Creek on Miami Beach. The channel — dug when the Tuttle was built but never officially designated on navigational charts — lies within a 24-acre area where sea grass is being replanted as mitigation for expansion of PortMiami.
Glen Allen, fleet captain of Fleet Miami — an organization of yacht owners — says the narrower detour created by the pilings traverses waters too shallow for safe navigation by big yachts — a problem he has already experienced with a client’s 154-footer that draws 7½ feet.
Allen predicts the problem is going to mushroom when hundreds of vessels in the 80-foot range and bigger begin arriving for the Miami International Boat Show and Yacht & Brokerage Show, which runs Feb. 13-17.
“If the channel is no longer navigable for most of the boats that come into the creek, the boat show is going to go somewhere else,” Allen said. “You’ve got 500 boats that need to come in there for the boat show and 500 that need to come out. There’s going to be accidents.”
Both Allen and Kipnis say big yachts can’t approach Indian Creek from the north because of even shallower waters.
Sergeant Luis Sanchez of the Miami Beach Marine Patrol is worried because he says most yacht operators aren’t aware of the situation.
“They’re going to run aground. They might hit pilings. It’s going to be a nightmare,” Sanchez said.
Kipnis said he repeatedly has warned Corps officials about the looming problem, but no one has paid attention.
“Pathetic,” Kipnis said. “It’s a story of the government not being responsive to the needs of the people.”
He hopes appealing to the Beach City Commission will help persuade the Corps to remove the pilings squeezing the channel in time for the boat shows. Kipnis also would like the mitigation area to be shifted a bit north and for a 120-foot wide navigation channel to be designated and marked permanently with a controlling depth of 12 feet.