Port of Miami
Response to statements in the article:
Sifting for Truth in the Deep Dredge
Biscayne Times, March 2014
Quote: “What makes you think for one minute that the contractor is going to follow the rules and regulations,” asks Capt. Dan Kipnis. … “There are no penalties for dragging your cable through sea grass or coral. They can kill manatees or dolphins, and there are no penalties. All they’ll have to do is stop.”
Fact: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and their contractors are required by law to perform the environmental mitigation agreed upon in their NEPA document and in the FDEP permit. There are civil and criminal penalties for injuring or killing manatees or dolphins. There have been no reports of any marine life deaths or harassment caused by the on going dredging. In fact, it was the Great Lakes contractor that reported the dead manatee to authorities upon its discovery outside of the project area and it was later confirmed that the death was from a recreational boat strike. The manatee was discovered in Biscayne Bay, north of the Julia Tuttle Causeway.
Quote: “I’m not saying those boats killed it. But all of this could have been avoided.”
Fact: We aren’t sure what Kipnis is saying could have been avoided. He had wanted us to move the pilings earlier in the year to enable large yachts to transit in an unmarked, undesignated channel for the recent Miami boat show. The show went off without a hitch and all yachts were able to reach their destination. Is Kipnis implying that he knows of a yacht that killed a mantee? Otherwise, what is he saying could have been avoided and by what Corps action?
Quote: Kipnis, who also chairs the City of Miami Beach Marine Authority, says the Army Corps of Engineers refused to move the pilings. “They said no, and then they lied to us,” he claims. “The (demarcated) site wasn’t even being used.”
Fact: Any adjustment to the placed pilings would have cost local taxpayers thousands of dollars, to remobilize the contractor, purchase new piling, re-drive the new pilings, and make necessary engineering adjustments to the size of the site. The USACE very clearly responded that this was not a fiscally responsible decision. There was no lying. The seagrass mitigation site remains an active construction site and has been in the public record since 2004 with no adverse comments on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) related to navigational thoroughfare restrictions. USACE is restoring seagrass habitat that was removed during the construction of the Julia Tuttle Causeway and which will benefit manatees and other sport fish because of having a more conducive living environment.
Quote: “The 2012 lawsuit was settled in return for $1.3 million for the Biscayne Bay Environmental Enhancement Trust Fund and some expansion of seagrass and coral mitigation projects, including the relocation of some corals and the creation of nine acres of artificial reefs. While the seagrass project is in clear view, the corals seem to be MIA. “I’m completely in the dark about where these corals are going,” says Colin Foord, cofounder of Coral Morphologic….”
Fact: The USACE contacted Foord March 6 who said he was never interviewed by or talked to Jim Harper. He had a discussion with Harper about a month ago and asked these questions. Since that discussion he has spoken with a USACE subject matter expert who informed him exactly where the corals are being placed. He now has a source at USACE to answer all of his questions. Foord and other interested parties are welcome to call the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to ask any questions at any time.
Quote: “Who’s checking to make sure they’re doing their job,” Foord asks. “Who’s going to prove (they moved the corals)?” He says the contract calls for the removal of corals greater than 10 inches in diameter, plus potentially 1,500 smaller corals.
Fact: The contract actually calls for the removal of all corals greater than 25 centimeters in diameter and up to 1,300 corals between 10 and 25 centimeters. Per FDEP compliance all required information is published for the public on their website which documents what monitoring has been done to date, how many corals have been moved and to where. FDEP participates in a monthly call with USACE and other agencies to get updates on progress.
Quote: “Some of the removed corals are to be transplanted onto existing reefs. But Foord asks, “Where is this natural reef they’ve selected? I’d love to know.” He is also concerned about a hybrid coral from two federally protected species, the staghorn and elkhorn coral. The hybrid coral is not protected under the Endangered Species Act.”
Fact: The natural reef area was selected by the contractor, reviewed by the Corps and the coordinates provided to Miami-DERM to monitor the corals after relocation. The hybrid coral is located on the jetties, and the jetties are not being impacted by the project.
Quote: “He has been approved by Miami-Dade County and the state wildlife commission to collect corals, but he awaits the green light from the Army Corps of Engineers.”
Fact: FWC has been coordinating with the Corps and as soon as all of the corals requiring relocation from the project have been relocated to the natural area and the artificial reef, then the area will be opened to organizations authorized by FWC to relocate any remaining corals. It could be several months before those areas are open and available and we will continue coordination with FWC.
Quote: “Will it require 600 days of dynamiting to reach a depth of 50 feet? How will the continuous explosions affect the 12 protected marine species and the ocean and bay habitats?”
Fact: The article writer never called the Corps of Engineers to seek an answer to this question. If he had, we could have told him there have been zero days of confined underwater blasting to date. There remain 500 days in the contract, and we still don’t anticipate any blasting until spring 2015. The contractor is making great progress excavating the rock without the need to blast. Our NEPA document, which was available to the public and reviewed by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries under the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act found that the blasting was not likely to adversely affect protected species in the Bay.
Quote: “It’s going to be a disaster for Biscayne Bay,” warns Kipnis. “You can’t do a project of this size and not have impacts. I grew up on Star Island. I know the environment in this place, and I’ve watched four to five dredging projects, and they’ve all been disasters.”
Fact: To date, there have been four to five dredging events at Miami Harbor, and yet the environment remains unaffected. There is no proof or evidence that this dredging event will be any different. Dan Kipnis’ false statements are not based on any scientific data but on personal opinion.