Environmental Group Threatens To Sue Army Corps Of Engineers About Dredging Near Corals

Jul 21, 2014

Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper claims the ships working for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are leaking sediment which harms coral reefs near the dredging project. The group says this image was taken on June 25, 2014.
Credit Dan Kipnis / Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper

An environmental non-profit organization has filed a letter that says it may sue the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  

Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper in Miami alleges the Army Corps violated the Endangered Species Act by not protecting coral reefs affected by dredging at PortMiami.

“In 2013 divers went down to do a pre-construction survey of the site and they identified 10 times more corals than was found in the previous survey,” says Rachel Silverstein, Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper’s executive director.    

The project involves expanding the port by dredging and widening the Miami Harbor. Before any of the dredging started, the Army Corps moved about 1,000 corals.

But Silverstein says the agency has not monitored these newly discovered coral colonies. She says their ships are also leaking sediment that harm the corals.  

“It’s extremely unique to have these corals so close to an urban area like Miami,” says Silverstein. “They’re coastline protection that’s critical for the city, especially with all the flooding in Miami.”

Laurel Reichold is the project manager for the Army Corps. She says they are in fact monitoring the corals and the ships are not leaking.

“We have special sensors and those detect a draft change,” says Reichold. “And so we are monitoring to make sure that no sediment is leaking out of them.”

In regards to Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper’s allegations, Reichold said she couldn't comment on them, but spokeswoman Susan Jackson could.

“The dredging that we’ve done there repeatedly has proven that they are resilient and they will come back again,” says Jackson.   

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has 60 days to respond to the complaint. If not, Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper says it will file a lawsuit. 

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