MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A legal challenge by environmental groups and wealthy residents of Fisher Island to the Port Miami’s plan to deepen Government Cut could delay the project for more than a year.
Part of the port’s $2 billion expansion, the $150 million “Deep Dredge” project was scheduled to get underway this summer, according to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald.
A month long hearing on the environmental impact of the project has been scheduled for this August. The hearing was ordered by a Tallahassee administrative judge despite the fact that the project had already received preliminary approval from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Port Miami Director Bill Johnson said the deeper channel is needed to accommodate the new class of mega-sized cargo ships designed to take advantage of a Panama Canal widening due to be completed in 2014 can dock. Johnson believes the deeper channel will double the port’s container shipping business which will create jobs.
The project calls for widening the port’s offshore entrance to the main channel by 300 feet. It also calls for deepening much of the port by 52 feet. To accomplish this about eight feet of rock, sand and about five acres of previously undisturbed reef will have to be dug out.
Most of the concerns raised deal with water quality during the dredging process. State and federal agencies overseeing the project insist most impacts will be short-lived and minimized by temporarily shutting down dredging buckets or cutters to prevent dense, damaging plumes from forming.
CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed to this report.