They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing twice and expecting a different result. The Army Corps, after illegally wiping out over 250 acres of Miami’s reef during the dredging of the Port of Miami, has asked Congress for permission to do the same to Ft. Lauderdale.
“The Corps’ report misleadingly and conveniently blames the disease and warm temperatures for the destruction of our corals, but all of the available evidence, including evidence from every other federal, state, and local government agency involved, shows that the Corps’ dredging that was smothering the reefs long before the disease even began,” said Miami Waterkeeper executive director Rachel Silverstein.
The Corps is required to monitor the area for at least another year to determine whether permanent damage occurred that would need to be addressed.
The PortMiami expansion is nearly complete, making Miami the first port in the State of Florida capable of accepting the supersized ships that will soon sail through the expanded Panama Canal. But we do not believe that the PortMiami dredging project has been the unmitigated success its proponents claim it to be. The evidence is clear that the dredging operation, which began in November 2013, has deposited an asphyxiating blanket of sediment atop our coral reef: the same reefs that protect Miami Beach’s imperiled coastline from storm surges; support our teeming fish populations; and help sustain our booming tourist industry. Many Americans do not know that South Florida is home to the only coral reef tract in the continental United States: as unique as the sequoias of California or the geysers of Wyoming, and no less deserving of our protection.
“We definitely feel like the lessons weren’t learned, and we had to lose a whole reef in Miami. We want people to do better next time, but there has been no effort to improve their plans,” Silverstein says. “But I don’t think this is the end of the line in the process.”
We are thrilled to announce that we were awarded a Rapid Ocean Conservation (ROC) Grant from the Waitt Foundation. These grants provide quick-turnaround funding to address emergent conservation issues. This type of funding is rare and critically important for conservation because these grants can be used to address sudden crises, such as algal blooms, oil spills, or coral bleaching. When environmental issues need an immediate response, waiting through a typical grant cycle be too slow.
“This settlement is a win for the environment and for local taxpayers, who are still on the hook for the Army Corps of Engineers’ mess. Our reefs and bay are ecological and aesthetic jewels, critical to our clean water economy and local culture. It’s a shame, and shameful, that we had to sue the federal government to get it to follow federal law.”
“Silverstein said that even bringing the Corps to the bargaining table was a victory.
“I’m proud and impressed that a tiny organization like us or the other plaintiffs can call on the Army Corps of Engineers, this behemoth of bureaucracy, and they have to appear down here and be held accountable,” she said, adding that the agreement was “an amazing outcome.”
Nonetheless, the NOAA report is “a very big deal,” says Rachel Silverstein, executive director of Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper, another environmental group against the dredge.
“This is confirmation of what we’ve been saying all along,” she says. “It’s bittersweet for us because it confirms that our reefs have really been devastated because of the project. That’s not easy to hear but hopefully it does spur the Corps to action to actually do something to help the corals before it’s too late.”