Fears of irreparable harm to coral reefs prompted a lawsuit Wednesday against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Four groups are asking the Corps to re-evaluate the Port Everglades dredging project in Broward County. They say the Corps has failed to consider the disastrous effects of a similar dredging project on coral reefs at PortMiami. In that project, large amounts of coral were damaged or killed by sediment.
"Many of the planning documents for Port Everglades were still based on old assumptions that don’t take into account how severe and how widespread the impacts actually are to the nearby reefs," said Rachel Silverstein, executive director of Miami Waterkeeper, one of the plaintiffs in the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Miami.
The goal of the Port Everglades project is to accommodate additional traffic from the expanded Panama Canal. And Silverstein says her group appreciates the economic importance of the dredging.
"Our goal is not to stop the dredging project entirely. We’re just trying to ensure that the reef is protected while the dredging is undertaken," she said.
The Army Corps of Engineers has acknowledged the shortcomings of its PortMiami environmental analysis and said it will begin re-doing its evaluation of the Port Everglades project in January 2017. For now, it’s continuing to move forward with dredging plans. But it has pledged to construct a 12.6-acre reef to replace damaged coral, according to the Miami Herald.
In addition to Miami Waterkeeper, the Center For Biological Diversity, the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association are named as plaintiffs in the suit.