Miami Harbor Deepening

Port of Miami

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District completed construction on the Miami Harbor deepening and widening project.  The Miami Harbor project is the first Federal navigation project in the southeast built to a 50 feet depth to accommodate today’s shipping needs.

As part of its 2012 We Can’t Wait initiative, the White House Administration announced nationally and regionally significant infrastructure projects would be expedited to help modernize and expand five major ports in the United States, including the Port of Miami.  Through a progressive partnership with the State of Florida, which provided funds needed to construct the project, the timeframe for channel construction was advanced by years and took two years to complete. 

Miami Harbor is the largest dredging project conducted in the region in the past decade, and is the first of its kind in the nation to combine federal, state and local funds in advance to get the project done.

The harbor construction enables the port to accommodate larger vessels, ultimately facilitating a more efficient movement of goods and services. The super-sized Panamax vessels are more than twice the size of current ships and will make overseas commerce more economical and efficient. Miami Harbor is the first of four Eastern Seaboard ports to be deepened to accommodate the larger vessels.  In 2016, Panama Canal officials announced the completion of the canal expansion, which allows transit for these super-sized vessels.

Miami Harbor construction brought the entrance channel depth to 52 feet, and widened the outermost portion of the entrance channel to 800 feet.  The project also widened portions of the inner channel and deepened it to 50 feet.  In total, five different dredges removed more than five million cubic yards of rock, limestone and sand.  

“Dramatic statements were made about the effects of the dredging in Miami, specifically regarding sedimentation impacts to offshore resources. Contrary to these statements, sedimentation effects were anticipated and are expected to be of short-term duration with no long lasting effect on the ecosystem,” said Col. Jason A. Kirk, Jacksonville District commander.   

Planning for the Miami project began nearly 20 years ago and involved extensive research and collaboration with local, state and federal agencies, including public input, every step along the way.  “With our partners, we’ll continue to monitor the health of adjacent resources. Additional restorative and mitigative efforts will be performed should any effects prove permanent instead of short term. We remain committed to continuing our close collaboration with local, state, and federal agencies to ensure there is a proper assessment and mitigation of impacts,” Kirk said.

Already completed mitigation features of the project include the creation of 17 acres of new seagrass beds and more than 11 acres of new artificial reef with thousands of coral relocations.  Long term monitoring and collaboration with environmental agencies continues.


Port Miami Project History

  • In 1990, in response to the need for continued growth of the Port to meet the demands of the passenger and commercial shipping industries, Congress authorized the deepening and expansion of the Port to 42 feet.
  • Phase I, in which the Port deepened the entrance channel and Fisher Island turning basin, was completed in 1993.
  • Phase II, a $40 million project to address the South Harbor, was initiated in the mid 1990s and was unable to be completed due to the hardness of the rock. In 2000, the Port approached the Jacksonville District to complete the construction. Construction began in June 2005 and was completed in July 2006.
  • Phase III began in 2012. The plan includes components to widen and deepen the Entrance Channel, deepen Government Cut, deepen and widen Fisher Island Turning Basin, relocate the west end of the Main Channel (no dredging involved), and deepen and widen Fisherman's Channel and the Lummus Island Turning Basin. The project will enable the port to accommodate larger cargo vessels and other ships, ultimately facilitating a more efficient movement of goods. Through a progressive partnership with the State of Florida, which has provided all the funds needed to construct the project, the time frame for its construction has been advanced by years.
  • 2013 Deepening contract award summary. The Corps of Engineers awarded a $122 million contract on May 16, 2013, to Great Lakes Dredge & Dock to deepen Miami Harbor. The Corps subsequently awarded two options; $51.9 million and $31.7 million option to GLD&D for the project, bringing the total contract value to $205.6 million.
  • Sept. 17, 2015 project completion.

Progress Update

The Corps and Port Miami are working closely and coordinating weekly with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) scientists as post construction impact assessments continue at Miami Harbor. The impact assessment protocol is posted above and details the type of data that have been collected and the location of the various data collection sites. 

These data enable an assessment of the presence and severity of potentially project-related sedimentation at each site, which can be used in conjunction with information on benthic communities (condition of organism) to determine adverse effects of the project on hardbottom and coral reef resources.

The biological data assessment is still underway by the FDEP and NMFS.