Miami Waterkeeper, and our co-plaintiffs -- Center for Biological Diversity, Florida Wildlife Federation Inc., and Diving Equipment and Marketing Association -- have undertaken extensive litigation efforts to ensure that the planned Port Everglades dredging project protects local coral reefs. As a result of our litigation, this project has been delayed for 4 years already, pending new environmental reviews. On March 18th, the Army Corps of Engineers released an updated status report indicating that the project start date will be delayed further -- until the year 2022.
(Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, FL, located just 30 miles north of Port Miami. Source: Cision PR Newswire)
The Army Corps is planning to deepen and widen Port Everglades, to make way for larger “Post-Panamax” vessels. However, like at Port Miami, the shipping channel crosses the Florida reef tract, which is highly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of dredging. During the dredging of the Port of Miami from 2013-2015, just 30 miles south of Port Everglades, the Corps illegally buried over 200 football fields of coral reef, leaving irreversible impacts -- both immediate and long term. We're working to ensure that this dredgeful situation doesn't happen again.
(Extensive sedimentation plumes from Port Miami dredging project which smothered hundreds of thousands of coral colonies.)
Since the Corps is undertaking a “major federal action,” they are required by law to conduct extensive environmental assessments and mitigation for harm that they might cause -- acknowledging all impacts of the proposed action and considering alternatives. They are also required to consider "best available science". This includes a Biological Assessment and supplemental National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents.
In 2016, Miami Waterkeeper and co-plaintiffs filed suit against the Corps under the citizen suit provisions of the Endangered Species Act and NEPA. We argued that the Corps did not consider the harm caused to corals by the dredging project in PortMiami, hence failing to use “best available science” when conducting environmental analysis at Port Everglades. We successfully influenced the Corps’ reassessment of these documents and mitigation plans and delayed construction efforts to 2021. Read the full status report from 2019 HERE. However, the most recent status report indicates even further delay-- to 2022.
This past March, the Corps released an updated status report regarding environmental documents and procedures to be completed for its case:
- The Corps expects to submit its Biological Assessment to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in December 2020.
- The Corps estimates that it will complete its design and engineering work for the deepening and widening features of the project in September 2021.
- The NMFS and Corps predict they will issue draft supplemental NEPA documents in December 2020, complete the Endangered Species Act consultation process in May 2021, and issue final supplemental NEPA documents and final agency action in September 2021.
- The Corps also anticipates that the contract for the project will not be awarded before January 2022, and that construction will not begin before August 2022.
The Corps will be submitting another status report on or before June 16, 2020. Miami Waterkeeper will continue to keep you informed on upcoming decisions, timelines, and environmental reviews.
It is our goal to ensure that our precious coral reefs are not harmed during this project, and that the laws to protect them are followed. Read the full updated status report HERE.
We will continue our efforts to prevent the history from repeating itself in Port Everglades and will work to ensure our corals are adequately protected in any upcoming dredging project. Read more about our Protect Florida Reefs campaign HERE.