By Jai-Leen James, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – The Miami Beach Commission recently approved $250,000 to begin dredging Collins Canal and Biscayne Point Waterway. Sediment build up in the area creates shallow spots that restricts boats from being able to navigate.
Sediment in the water has been an issue in the area for nearly three decades and lack of sufficient funds has caused of years of delay in dredging efforts.
The restoration project will cost the city of Miami Beach $6 million. Part of the general obligation bond will be used towards the Waterway Restoration project. The city plans to update the dredging analysis from 2003, conduct a new waterway survey and oversee endangered seagrass habitats.
“We have in tranche two of the G.O. bond the waterway project,” said Commissioner John Elizabeth Alemán. “It’s like a two-year permitting process. If we don’t allocate the funds to do the permitting and all the analysis that goes with it, we will never be ready to put that money in tranche two.”
The funding will come from the city’s capital operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Once the funding is available, Miami Beach will organize a bidding process to find a contractor to take over operations.
Miami Beach was unable a secure a grant from the Florida Inland Navigation District to fund the project. Collins Canal and Biscayne Point Waterway are manmade therefore ineligible to meet the organization’s funding criteria.
“The fact that we weren’t able to access that grant money and as a city there’s never been a project to do that dredging work, we had to do a study a few years back, but it was not followed up with any capital funds,” said Elizabeth Wheaton, Miami Beach’s Director of Environment and Sustainability.
“The idea would be to understand what it would take to do ongoing maintenance dredging,” Wheaton said.
“Our goal would be to set up a program which would allow us to come in and periodically dredge so that we do not reach the level where we are today, where we are having to wait years before getting in there.”
Last month, a team of researchers from the University of Miami published a report on the damage dredging can cause to coral reef. In the Marine Pollution Bulletin, scientists estimated that over half a million coral were killed in a 2013 Port of Miami dredging project.
“Coral reefs worldwide are facing severe declines from climate change, if we want to conserve these ecosystems for the generations that come after us, it’s essential that we do all we can to conserve the corals we still have left,” said Andrew Baker, senior author of the study and an associate professor of marine biology and ecology at the University of Miami.
“These climate survivors may hold the key to understanding how some corals can survive global changes. We have to start locally by doing all we can to protect our remaining corals from impacts, like dredging, that we have the ability to control or prevent.”