WPLG Local 10

February 22, 2017


Environmental activists concerned about deep-water dredging of Port Everglades

By Todd Tongen




FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Environmental activists are concerned that a project to deepen Port Everglades could damage Broward County's reefs.

"If we do it like Miami, we are going to lose our reefs," former port engineer Ron Coddington said.

Coddington attended Wednesday's deep-water dredging discussion in Fort Lauderdale.

When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged Port Miami a few years ago, they stirred up so much silt that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it suffocated and killed a nearby reef system.

Port Everglades Director Steven Cernak told Local 10 News that the port needs to stay competitive and there is a demand for deep water.

"We are taking proactive steps to make sure that things are done differently than what may have been done or not done down in Miami," Cernak said.

However, not everyone believes deep-water dredging is necessary.

"There's no reason, economically, to do it," Capt. Dan Kipnis said. "We already have a deep-dredge port in Miami, 20 miles from here."

Port officials have hired environmental impact consultants and are actively involved in the design, which includes expanding the turning basin and adding five more cargo ship berths. To do so, they'll have to take out 8 acres of mangroves, but they have already done a two-to-one mitigation by planting more than 16 acres of nursery-grown mangroves.

However, critics claim the Corps ultimately makes these types of environment impact decisions, and money will be a factor. The project is already slated to cost nearly $400 million.

"What we need to look at is innovative techniques to pump the material offshore or contain the material that we pump in scows so that we don't have the overflow of silt," Coddington said.

Cernak said the project is being done with consideration of the reefs.

"We view ourselves as environmental stewards," Cernak said. "Broward County has a history of valuing their reefs. I am part of Broward County."