Jacksonville, Fla. – Miami Harbor is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ first Florida port expansion project to deepen to 50-plus feet, employing some of the highest environmental protection protocols outside of a designated National Marine Sanctuary.
The Corps of Engineers works daily with its contractor and multiple federal, state and local agencies to help ensure the health of the Miami Harbor and surrounding environment is preserved throughout construction.
The Miami Harbor is an active Federal Navigation Channel supporting general cargo, consumer goods, and other commercial trade internationally. This channel has been an active port since 1911 and was dredged many times throughout its 100-year history. Both the near-shore and off-shore coral reef habitats, as well as the inner bay seagrass habitats, remain resilient and hardy to the naturally dynamic channel environment and to the temporary influences of historical dredging events.
The Corps anticipates the same resiliency of adjacent habitats, and continues to monitor these resources very closely with additional environmental protections and management strategies in place.
The Corps is using the best science, engineering and technologies available to construct this nationally significant project. For example, Dr. Mark Fonseca is a world-renowned expert on seagrass restoration and is the senior ecologist implementing the project’s seagrass mitigation plan.
The Corps’ contractor, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, LLC., implements adaptive dredging management strategies to minimize sediment input into the system during removal of nearly five million cubic yards of material. These strategies include actions that are taken to prevent unintended impacts. In addition, turbidity levels are measured every four hours during dredging operations to help ensure there are no violations of Florida’s permitted water quality levels, which are in place to protect the marine environment.
The Corps’ contractor has relocated approximately 1,000 healthy corals from the edge of the channel prior to dredging and built artificial coral reefs. In addition, 38 threatened staghorn coral colonies adjacent to the channel were relocated outside of the potential impact area. Fragments from these colonies were also collected and transported to a nursery at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science to preserve genetic material that aids in the recovery of the species.
The Corps recognizes that modernizing the country’s infrastructure in an environmentally sustainable manner is essential to the nation. Engineers and scientists are working hard to ensure this and that the Miami Harbor remains a vital part of the global marketplace.