Miami Harbor Improvements Study (I)

May 2024


Miami Harbor Navigation Improvement Study, FL
Investigations (I)
Congressional Districts.: 24, 27, 28


The Miami Harbor Navigation Improvement Study will assess national economic benefits of potential navigation improvements to Miami Harbor. Current alternatives under consideration in addition to the no action plan include widening and/or deepening specific areas within Miami’s federally authorized channels. Issues that are anticipated include concern for hard bottom/reef communities, turbidity and sedimentation associated with dredging operations, seagrasses, threatened and endangered species, and cultural, commercial, and recreational resources. The base year for the study is 2035, with a 50-year planning horizon and will examine both containership and cruise vessels that exceed current sizes transiting the Port today.


Estimated Total Cost* $7,700,000
Estimated Federal Cost*  $3,800,000


     a.  Regular Civil Works Funds: 

Allocation thru FY23 $3,444,000
Allocation for FY24 $0
President’s Budget FY25  $0


     b.  P.L 117-58: Bi-Partisan Infrastructure Law:   

Total Work Plan                $2,300,000
Allocation thru FY23 $1,544,000
Allocation for FY24 $0

* Estimated Total Cost and Federal Cost include $200,000 for Independent External Peer Review (IEPR), which are 100% Federal Costs.


Port Miami
1015 North America Way, 2nd Floor
Miami, Florida 33132


The feasibility study is examining Miami Harbor’s channel dimensions and depth to accommodate cruise vessels and containerships (14K twenty-foot equivalent unit [TEU] & 18K TEU) over a 50-year planning horizon. Previously completed study efforts between 2018 and 2020 included a ship simulation to determine the required channel for the 14K TEU design vessel, economic evaluations of future without and with project conditions, commodity and future fleet forecasting, environmental impacts, and whether the Miami Harbor Ocean Dredged Material Disposal Site (ODMDS) needs to be expanded for the future dredge material.

Resource agency concerns over the presence of coral, hardbottom, and seagrass habitat surrounding the harbor’s channel limits prompted a 3X3X3 exception request for additional time (3.75 years) and funds (~$4.49M) necessary to conduct more recent environmental baseline surveys, environmental impact analysis, beneficial use investigation of dredge material, refinement of the channel design, updated economic analysis, and a tradeoff analysis to determine the Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP). The tradeoff analysis included a supplemental ship simulation with the 10K/11K TEU vessel class in order to provide information on tradeoffs between shipping efficiencies and environmental impacts, in comparison to the study's 14K TEU design vessel.

The exception package was submitted to SAD in February 2021, was endorsed by SAD on May 11, 2021, and by HQ on November 24, 2021, and approved by the ASA(CW) on June 6, 2022. Appropriations of $2.245M were provided in the FY22 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). Because of the delay in approval between HQUSACE and the ASA(CW), the environmental surveys were not awarded and completed in summer 2022, so a second exception request for additional time (1 year) was incorporated.

SAJ awarded the environmental survey contracts in May 2023 and completed the additional ship simulation in August 2023. SAJ issued stop work orders to its environmental contractor in November 2023 for their inability to meet the schedules in each contract. With this outcome, additional environmental contracts will need to be awarded and performed in a future summer (2025 or 2026) timeframe.

Lastly, the Miami Harbor study has become dependent on the Port Everglades (Port E) design coordination with the resource agencies (i.e., NMFS). The agencies have made it exceptionally more difficult and costly to mitigate for direct and indirect impacts in Port E with mitigation for critical habitat (i.e., Conservation Balancing) and proposed out planting of millions of ESA-listed corals from nurseries. The Miami Harbor study began to incorporate the Port E mitigation measures and applicable costs into the Miami Harbor study’s 2020, pre-exception request footprint for navigation improvements and realized the project was no longer economically justified. As a result, the Miami Harbor study team has begun to look at alternatives of inner harbor improvements only and dismissed the entrance channel improvements from further consideration in hopes of producing a plan that is environmentally acceptable and economically justified.

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