In the wake of the Port Everglades dredging delay, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is encouraging the public to provide input as part of an updated analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for the Port Everglades navigation improvements project. These meetings come in part because the Corps has delayed the start of the dredging project until a new environmental study is completed. The new environmental study is being conducted as a response to a federal lawsuit filed by DEMA, along with several environmental organizations, requesting the new environmental studies be completed before the planned dredging project to expand Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, FL commences.
An open comment period started in late September and will end March 24, 2017.
The Corps’ Jacksonville District and Port Everglades will host two scoping meetings:
- February 22 at 2:00 p.m.
- February 22 at 6:00 p.m.
Both meetings will take plan in Hall B, rooms 113/114 at the Broward County Convention Center
1950 Eisenhower Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, FL. 33316. Sign-in and poster sessions start at 2 and 6 p.m., with presentations at 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. respectively, followed by a question and comment period. The Corps will share new information and address all submitted written comments in a draft supplemental NEPA document.
DEMA asks that all members of the diving community attend one of these scoping meetings, or submit written comments in favor of the new study, citing the value of the reefs to divers, diving businesses and the entire community, and including data on the need to protect the living coral reef.
Members of the Diving Community unable to attend a meeting can send comments directly to email@example.com or:
Jacksonville District Corps of Engineers
Attn: Planning Division – Terri Jordan Sellers
701 San Marco Boulevard
Jacksonville, FL 32207-8175
Your comments should be copied to firstname.lastname@example.org. DEMA will also submit written comments directly to the Corps.
All Port Everglades documents are located at http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Navigation/Navigation-Projects/Port-Everglades/.
The Corps has agreed to reassess its Port Everglades environmental analysis because of new environmental information available about the widespread and unanticipated damage incurred during a similar dredging project at nearby PortMiami and new, local coral species recently added to the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) list.
In Miami, the dredging proved disastrous for the coral reefs in the area. For the PortMiami project, the Corps had assumed there would be minimal impacts to coral, but instead fine-grained sediment from the project harmed tens of thousands of coral colonies and over 250 acres of reef designated as “critical habitat” for the ESA-listed staghorn corals. The National Marine Fisheries Service assessed the area and determined that 95% of the surveyed reef is no longer suitable habitat for corals, and some of the damaged reef will never recover naturally.
The Port Everglades dredging, which was planned to begin in 2017, is now expected to be on hold until at least 2019 while the new environmental analyses are conducted.