Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez announced today that pending approval by the Board of County Commissioners, the PortMiami Deep Dredge project will move forward under an agreement reached between the County and three petitioners who raised concerns about the project: the Tropical Audubon Society, Biscayne Bay Waterkeepers, Inc. and a County resident, Dan Kipnis.
The agreement was reached after a number of meetings were held to discuss how the County could best support the goals and objectives of the environmental community. Those meetings resulted in the County agreeing to provide funding to the County’s Biscayne Bay Environmental Enhancement Trust Fund managed by the County’s Department of Permitting, Environment and Regulatory Affairs. The County is also donating funds to the non-profit groups Tropical Audubon Society and Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper for projects designed to protect and restore Biscayne Bay.
Given that these funds would support environmental projects, the petitioners agreed to withdraw their opposition to the issuance of a Florida Department of Environmental Protection permit to allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with the construction phase of the dredge project. These funds are in addition to the regulatory and environmental monitoring and mitigation requirements that are part of the state permitting process.
Mayor Gimenez commended the groups for reaching an agreement that will allow the Port to proceed with the deepening of its channel to -50 feet to accommodate larger container cargo vessels.
“This is a win-win for the entire community,” Gimenez said. “The agreement provides additional funding for important environmental projects, while at the same time allowing for the timely completion of the dredge project, which is critical to our efforts to grow our container cargo traffic and create thousands of new, well-paying jobs in our community.”
The monies will be used for County-sponsored projects including: mangrove and wetland restoration at Oleta River State Park in North Miami; restoration of coastal dunes and plants along the north point of Virginia Key; monitoring of relocated coral colonies on the natural reef system; monitoring of small fish populations in the seagrass beds and the improvement of shoal marker and signage systems in the north part of the Bay including the Bill Sadowski Critical Wildlife Area.
PortMiami Director Bill Johnson praised the agreement.
“I would like to thank all the organizations and individuals who have been involved in the process of reaching an agreement that will move our dredge project forward while at the same time bring additional resources to the community’s ongoing efforts to protect and restore Biscayne Bay,” Johnson said. “Biscayne Bay is an important contributor to the quality of life in South Florida, both as a natural resource and an economic engine. The agreement will provide additional resources for important restoration projects that will benefit our community for years to come.”
The agreement will go before the Board of County Commissioners on May 1 for final approval.