Miami Waterkeeper and co-plaintiffs (Center for Biological Diversity, Florida Wildlife Federation, Inc., and Diving Equipment and Marketing Association), have undertaken extensive litigation efforts to protect local coral reefs from the Port Everglades dredging project planned by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Since filing suit against the Corps under the citizen suit provisions of the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act in 2016, Miami Waterkeeper and co-plaintiffs have secured numerous delays to the dredging project to allow for more accurate environmental reviews to occur.
(Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, FL, located just 30 miles north of Port Miami. Source: Cision PR Newswire)
The Corps is required under ESA and NEPA to conduct these environmental reviews because its project is a “major federal action.” The Corps must take extensive environmental assessments, perform mitigation for potential harm caused, and acknowledge all of the impacts and possible alternatives to its proposed action. The Corps must also use the “best available science,” which includes a Biological Assessment and supplemental NEPA documents. However, despite these stringent standards, the Corps’ PortMiami dredging project, which occurred from 2013–2015––just 30 miles south of Port Everglades––illegally buried an area of reef exceeding 200 football fields in area, decimating already-threatened staghorn coral populations. Read more about our PortMiami litigation efforts HERE and our restoration success HERE.
Following the PortMiami dredging project, the Corps submitted a proposal for a similar project at Port Everglades that would deepen and widen the port to make way for larger “Post-Panamax” vessels, despite admitting to erroneous environmental assessments that underestimated known risk. The litigation pursuits we began with our co-plaintiffs in 2016 aim to ensure the Corps does not cause similar ecological damage and economic harm to the coral reefs at Port Everglades. In successfully persuading the Corps to reassess its environmental reviews to consider the serious consequences dredging poses to coral reefs––and that environmental analysis uses the “best available science”––we’ve managed to delay construction efforts, first to 2021, and then to 2022.
On September 14, 2020, the Corps submitted its most recent status report (identical to a previous report from June 16, 2020, and nearly identical to a previous report from March 18, 2020) regarding the environmental documents and procedures to be completed for its case:
- The Corps still expects to re-submit its biological assessment to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in December 2020.
- The Corps still estimates that it will complete its design and engineering work for the deepening and widening features of the project in September 2021. (The work is still currently 65% complete).
- The NMFS and Corps still predict they will issue draft supplemental NEPA documents in December 2020 and complete the ESA consultation process in May 2021, but now predict to issue final supplemental NEPA documents and final agency documents in May 2021. (The March 18, 2020 report predicted the final supplemental NEPA documents and final agency action would not be issued until September 2021.)
- The Corps still 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 December 13, 2020. Miami Waterkeeper will continue to keep you informed on upcoming decisions, timelines, and environmental reviews.