In May, the Lake Worth Inlet project team reached a major milestone with the release of the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) to the public. A public meeting to introduce the plan to the community was attended by nearly 70 interested residents and stakeholders in Palm Beach. The meeting provided interested stakeholders with an opportunity to discuss the DEIS and to address any concerns and comments.
Lake Worth Inlet, serving as an entrance channel to the port, is inadequate both in width and depth, negatively impacting the current vessel fleet as well as future port potential. To ensure safety, local harbor pilots and the U.S Coast Guard have restricted vessel transit. In turn, these restrictions lead to light loading, tidal delays and maneuvering difficulties, resulting in economic inefficiencies that translate into impacts on the national economy.
The tentatively selected plan proposes the following: deepen the entrance channel from 35 to 41 feet and widen from 400 to up to 460 feet, plus a southern approach flare; deepen the inner channel from 33 to 39 feet and widen from 300 to 450 feet; deepen the main turning basin from 33 feet to 39 feet and extend the southern boundary of the turning basin an additional 150 feet.
Suitable material would be placed in a near shore disposal area adjacent to the beach, or beneficially used for proposed mitigation. Unsuitable material would be taken to the Palm Beach Ocean Dredged Material Disposal Site. Approximately 4.5 acres of seagrass habitat and 4.9 acres of hard bottom habitat would be affected through implementation of the tentatively selected plan. However, 8.25 to 11.25 acres of seagrass mitigation and 4.9 to 9.8 acres of hard bottom mitigation are being negotiated.
In addition, immediately south of the main turning basin, a warm water outfall from the Florida Power and Light Riviera Plant creates a warm water refugium for manatees.
The project is scheduled to be presented to the Civil Works Review Board in October for approval to move to Congress for authorization.