Anti-Deep Dredge activists lead ‘Battle for Biscayne Bay’

By | February 29th, 2012 | 8 Comments

Last week the Florida House of Representatives passed an amended bill that, with Senate approval, would put the Port of Miami Deep Dredge project on the fast track to resumption after a state court put the project on hold for further review. “Environmentalists are furious,” wrote the New Times. “They argue that the amended bill is an attempt to steamroll over their objections and circumvent court hearings set for this summer.”

Indeed, environmentalists worry that the Deep Dredge, an effort to accommodate a new generation of super freighters, could spell ecological disaster for Biscayne Bay and its marine life, including the rare “super coral” that marine biologist Colin Foord discovered on Fisher Island over the summer.

In an effort to raise awareness about the issue, filmmakers Nick Ducassi and Jonathan David Kane have made a nearly-10-minute video piece called the “Battle for Biscayne Bay” (embedded above). Featuring beautiful imagery of the bay, interviews with prominent local environmentalists, and music by ANR, the video portrays the Deep Dredge as a potential catastrophe. Here is Ducassi on what drove him to make the video:

I was compelled to make the video after hearing about the proposed dredge project at a time when I was particularly sensitive to Miami’s BS waste of taxpayer dollars — because the Miami Marlins had just unwrapped their 500 million dollar taxpayer gift earlier last Summer.

After the hybrid coral’s discovery (which I found about via Beached Miami), and reading about it again in the New York Times and Miami Herald, I was pissed off and looking for a way to say something. Blanca Mesa, a local environmentalist, reached out to me about putting something together last-minute for the Environmental Film Festival–which the Society of Environmental Journalists would attend. I threw together the video in five days, shooting it in two with one of my former interns at Borscht, Jack Elder. It screened to journalists from across the world — much to my terror.

Soon after, Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper, Tropical Audubon, and Dan Kipnis filed a lawsuit challenging the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protections issuance of a permit for the dredging. Alexis Segal of BBWK reached out to me and asked if we could do a longer version of the film. We jumped on it, I brought on Jonathan Kane, we reached out to MJ Hancock and Brian Robertson of ANR, who were amazingly generous in scoring the film for us with their music. Colin Foord gave us amazing footage he shot with a GoPro inside of Government Cut and a great interview — along with interviews of Dan Kipnis and Blanca Mesa — and here we are.

It’s about time Miami found out where two billion dollars is about to be sunk — into killing our bay for “phantom ships” that will probably never make it to our shoreline. Full Stop.

Of course, proponents of the Deep Dredge have a different take: They see the project as a job creator and an important step in Miami’s transformation into a 21st Century, global city. Promoting that view, here is the City of Miami’s video about Master Plan 2035, “the blueprint that will take PortMiami” — the port’s new branding — “to a new level.”

With the passage of the House bill last week, the Deep Dredge debate promises to pick up in volume and tension in the coming months. With that in mind, we put the question to our readers: Is the Deep Dredge a boondoggle and an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen, or is it an important part of Miami’s maturity into a global city?

Related Link: “Port of Miami Deep Dredge Project Could Kill Rare ‘Super Coral'”

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8 Comments on “Anti-Deep Dredge activists lead ‘Battle for Biscayne Bay’”

  1. 1 Someone with some Sense said at 2:11 am on March 1st, 2012:

    after watching both vids, port makes a compelling point, but it’s interesting to see that though their vid says there will be environmental safeguards in place–it doesn’t mention any–any–specifics. wonder why that is?

  2. 2 Denny Wood said at 5:40 pm on March 1st, 2012:

    I get confused sometimes. Firstly, we need to dredge the river to clean all the muck and trash that has built up for a 100 years of river dumping abuse. Funding is hard fought for this project.

    Now, a few years later, we need to make the river deeper, and maybe wider to accommodate the big ships that will come. What I see is a cleaning up of the river.

    What I would like to see is some artificial methods of making the river bottom attractive to the big fish. And the lobsters too. A deep clean river, seems to me an opportunity to vastly improve this natural artery. There must be ways of generating new coral growth, if we can keep the river pristine.

    Hopefully, we can all together make this project a positive for the river and our ocean life.

    Regarding the “phantom” ships, I’d prefer to think “build it and they will come”.

    This concern over what ifs and maybe’s might be better directed to forcing the Miami-Dade County Mayor to fast track the plan for dumping only clean water into the ocean. A bill is in the legislature to expand time lines and this is where the fight should be. The deadline, is 2025 now by law, and that is too long. Our local government is the worst polluter of the ocean.

  3. 3 Denny Wood said at 6:27 pm on March 1st, 2012:

    Joe Podgor, has brought up an issue about the widening and dredging. He feels there is a risk of saltwater intrusion into the Biscayne Aquifer.

    Has anyone else raised this potential “Red Flag”?

    denny@dennywood.net

  4. 4 Peter Ehrlich said at 11:05 pm on March 1st, 2012:

    Great video advocating for the natural scenic beauty of Biscayne Bay.

    There seem to be many important questions that need to be answered before Government Cut undergoes over 600 days of blasting.

  5. 5 Someone with some Knowledge said at 8:17 am on March 2nd, 2012:

    First of all, there will not be 600 days of blasting. The Environmental Impact Statement for the Dredging project (which you can find online) conservativetly estimated that 600 blasts would be required to pre-treat the rock. Officials have now said they believe this number to be considerably less, and multiple blasts can occur per calendar day.

    Second of all, saltwater intrusion was considered in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Impact Statement with a 2 dimensional simulation model that showed no impact. Current salinity levels inside the bay are as high as in the ocean, and the deepening of the port showed no change.

    And finally, details of the proposed environmental safeguards for the upcoming project are published in the Department of Environmental Protection’s Draft Permit, which you can find online, and they are similar to what was done in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

  6. 6 Wait So... said at 8:42 pm on March 3rd, 2012:

    Wait, so 500 days of blasting is okay? 400 is cool? Even if now, “officials” are stating it will be “less” (they ask for 600, but they don’t really know what it will take, i.e. “it’ll probably be less! but really, we dont know”) You do realize saying that 450 underwater blasts with thousands of *tons* of dynamite is okay, but 600 is absurd is, in itself, absurd, right?

    Second–The reason they used a model is because a project of THIS scope has never been undertaken–Imagine a bathtub with a very narrow hose at the bottom that drains to a bucket. Fill the bathtub up. Now change out the hoses, replacing the narrow one with one that could fit a softball through it. What happens to the bucket?
    Yeah thanks.

    Can you provide a link to these DEP Protection Draft Permit–because everything I’ve found says it’s about 20 acres of mitigation for 400 acres of dredging. Funny you didn’t link to it

  7. 7 Someone with some Knowledge re:"Wait So..." said at 10:40 am on March 5th, 2012:

    “Duration of the blasting is dependent upon a number of factors including hardness of rock; how close the drill holes are placed, and the type of dredging equipment that will be used to remove the pretreated rock.Without knowing the answers to these questions, an exact estimate of how many “blast days” will be required cannot be determined. However, the harbor deepening project at Miami Harbor in 2005-2006 estimated between 200-250 days of blasting with one-shot per day (a blast day) to pre-treat the rock associated with that project, however the contractor completed the project in 38 days with 40 blasts.”

    The question was is there “risk of saltwater intrusion into the Biscayne Aquifer.” The answer is eight feet of deepening will not penetrate the aquifer nor will it create a hydraulic head shift. Unlike your bathtub example, the channel is not confined for the entire depth of water to generate such an effect.

    FDEP permit link;

    Funny you don’t know how to use google search.

  8. 8 Permits said at 4:06 am on March 6th, 2012:

    Neither of you could link to it?

    http://bcs.dep.state.fl.us/env-prmt/dade/pending/0305721_Miami_Harbor_Phase_III_Federal_Dredging/001-BI/Intent/DRAFT%20Permit%208-31-11.pdf

    http://bcs.dep.state.fl.us/env-prmt/dade/issued/0181285_Port_of_Miami_Improvements/006-EI/Intent/DRAFT%20Permit%20-%20Port%20of%20Miami%20(07-17-08).pdf


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