Following is the statement of the Jacksonville District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, about the Port Miami and Port Everglades deepening projects:
1. The Corps is committed to protecting the marine resources of South Florida and has worked with our federal partner agency, the National Marine Fisheries Service, at every stage of the Miami Harbor project to comply with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.
2. The Corps carried out the Miami Harbor project according to the terms of the biological opinion issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service on September 8, 2011. The biological opinion considered the potential direct and indirect effects of project sedimentation and expressly authorized project-related “incidental take” of threatened staghorn coral.
3. The Corps and the National Marine Fisheries Service worked together to successfully relocate threatened staghorn coral away from the project area to a nursery for transplantation to other reef areas. The Corps continues to work with the National Marine Fisheries Service to assess the post-project condition of marine habitat within the project area.
4. Critics of the Miami deepening have made numerous statements that overstate the extent and degree of the effects of the project. Following are facts about these issues:
• The extent of the affected area in the worst case is about 0.4 square miles. The Florida Reef Tract is 150 miles long and four miles wide, with a total area of 600 square miles. The effects of the dredge in the worst case in no way threaten the overall viability of the reef tract.
• We conducted the dredge in compliance with all applicable permits, and have conducted extensive mitigation to date, including constructing an artificial reef, establishing acres of seagrass, and moving corals to coral nurseries where they have flourished.
• The scientific dive team that provided environmental monitoring of the project for the Corps conducted over 9,600 dives — no other group or organization conducted anywhere near this number of dives.
• The Corps, together with NMFS, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Port of Miami, will conduct a definitive survey of the affected areas this summer. This survey, using a protocol to which USACE, NMFS, Florida DEP and the Port of Miami have agreed, will determine the permanent, as opposed to transient, effects of deepening project, the success of mitigation efforts to date, and the need, if any, for additional mitigation.