Port Everglades has cause to celebrate after a recent biological research study ruled that dredging works would be of no harm to the local ecology.
The dredging project has been on hold for years after fears that any attempt to adapt the local geography of the area could be of serious detriment to local species.
However the “Biological Opinion” study has finally concluded that the expansion project would have no negative impact on the region’s eco-system, with plans to replace and expand any habitat damaged in the process.
The dredging project initially came under fire due to the ports location near a coral reef.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, expanding the port opening would involve the destruction of nearly 22 acres of coral reef; the repercussions of which could affect an added 118 acres of the delicate eco-system.
The Everglades Port Authority has attempted to diminish the damage by moving 11,500 corals from the entrance and using them to build an artificial reef further out to the sea and along the coast, with plans to import up to 50,000 corals grown from nurseries onshore.
As such the federal scientists who performed the study have granted permission on the basis that by adopting such an approach, it will diminish any long standing effect to the local environment whilst aiding in the safe expansion of the port.
Speaking to the Sun Sentinel, US Republican Debbi Wasserman Schultz noted that the result was “a positive step forward. This means we can have a port that meets the 21st-century needs of the global economy without jeopardizing the diverse sea life we cherish in South Florida, which is also vital to our local economy.”
With a final Army Corps of Engineers report expected this fall it is now likely that the port expansion will get underway.
The project is expected to allow Port Everglades to handle the massive influx of larger ships expected down the expanded Panama Canal, due for a December 2015 completion.
It is expected that 11,000 jobs will be generated from the expansion.
Whilst South Florida leaders have expressed their support to the project, some groups are still unconvinced. Ina Oost Topper, Chairwoman of the Broward Sierra club voiced these fears whilst speaking to the Sun Sentinel: “It's like removing endangered species and saying, 'We'll put them someplace else.' It's not that simple”
“You can try to replace something, but that may not work. That's very presumptuous.”