Environment

Environmental groups sue to stop Port Everglades dredge

Environmentalists and recreational divers sued Wednesday to stop dredging work at Port Everglades, which is being deepened to make way for massive new ships sailing through the expanded Panama Canal.
Environmentalists and recreational divers sued Wednesday to stop dredging work at Port Everglades, which is being deepened to make way for massive new ships sailing through the expanded Panama Canal. AP

Environmentalists who fought to clean up PortMiami’s massive dredge filed a lawsuit Wednesday to stop a similar expansion at Port Everglades that they say will damage threatened coral.

Arguing that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers relied on the same faulty survey methods that left a mile-wide swath of dead coral, the environmentalists and a group representing recreational divers want the Corps to redo an earlier study. The Corps plans to take another look next year at coral off the Broward County port, but the groups say that survey will be too late for plans now being drafted.

The port is being expanded to make way for new larger ships sailing through the Panama Canal. Parts of the channel will be widened by 300 feet and deepened in places to 55 feet.

It’s incredibly reckless that the Corps is continuing to move forward without redoing its evaluation.

Jaclyn Lopez, Center for Biological Diversity

“It’s incredibly reckless that the Corps is continuing to move forward without redoing its evaluation based on the dramatic sedimentation impacts that took place at PortMiami,” Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

Corps officials have blamed coral death after the PortMiami expansion on an outbreak of white plague disease and say impacts were unavoidable in deepening the century-old port. In Fort Lauderdale, the agency concluded that similar damage would likely occur and plans on building a 12.6-acre artificial reef to compensate for lost coral. About 100,000 corals will be relocated. The Corps also plans on planting new seagrass and mangroves south of the port.

12.6 acresThe size of an artificial reef the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to construct to replace damaged coral

The reefs off Fort Lauderdale are part of the only shallow water tract in the U.S. and bring in revenue of about $2 billion in Broward County alone.

“The dredging could irreparably harm this national treasure,” Earthjustice attorney Brettny Hardy said in a statement. “Under the law, a proper analysis must be done before further taxpayer dollars are spent on this potentially devastating project.”

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