During a time when the oceans, especially around Florida’s coastal areas, need more protection than ever, the U.S. Environmental Protection is proposing to significantly expand an underwater dump site off the coast of Florida.
According to an EPA public notice, the site would be used to dump material dredged during an upcoming $437 million Port Everglades labor deepening project. The posted notice includes a 30-day period for public comment which expires on Monday, April 13th.
If approved, the expansion would more than double the size of the existing offshore disposal from 1.43 nautical miles to 3.21 square nautical miles and would have an estimated capacity of 6.7 million yards.
The proposal has many concerned as Florida’s vital coral reefs are already on the brink of loss with pollution and stony coral disease. Further harm could cause mass devastation to remaining reefs such as what happened during the PortMiami deepening half a decade ago.
Sediment from the dredging that took place in PortMiami buried between half to 90 percent of nearby reefs, resulting in widespread coral death. It is estimated that over half a million corals were killed within 500 meters of the dredged channel and that the dredging impacts may have spread across more than 15 miles of Florida’s reef tract.
The Port Everglades harbor dredge, which is the catalyst for the new proposal, was approve by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2015 and the plan is to deepen the harbor from 45 to 50 feet to accolade new and bigger ships.
Above is the proposal for the expanded disposal site. The green box is the current dump site while the blue box labeled as Alternative 1 is the recommended expansion.
Outside of expanding the dumping location, one of the main concerns is that sand and limestone silt will spill from the barges during transportation, landing on reefs and damaging coral.
According to the EPA, the proposed dumpsite is beyond the edge of the continental shelf where waters depth is on average 678 feet and where sediment would not be expected to travel closer to the shore.
Yet, the proposal acknowledged that previous disposal of dredged material at the site has resulted in temporary increases in suspended sentiment concentrations during disposal operations, burial fo benthic organisms within the site, and slight changes in the abundance of composition of benthic assemblages.
Click here to leave your comment to try and make sure Florida’s reefs and wildlife stay protected.