By David Fleshler, Sun-Sentinel, Source
An environmental fight is brewing over plans by Port Everglades to blast and dredge a deeper entrance channel to accommodate the super-freighters that are beginning to dominate the world’s trade routes.
The $321 million project would deepen the channel to 50 feet from 42 feet, and make other improvements to safely accommodate the bigger ships. It would have a dramatic impact on one of the region’s busiest economic engines, a port for cruise ships, cargo ships and petroleum tankers that accounts for 10,000 jobs in direct employment and helps diversify a tourism-dependent economy.
But several state and federal environmental agencies say it could also have a dramatic impact on coral reefs, sea grass and endangered species…
By next year, the large ships that require a wider canal will be handling 64 percent of goods shipped overseas even though they make up only 30 percent of the ships.
“The world of international trade is going to larger ships,” he said.
Several environmental agencies have objected strongly to elements of the port’s plan, particularly since dredging and blasting would destroy part of a coral reef.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection called for further study of the impact of blasting during sea turtle nesting season. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the destruction of sea grass would harm the manatees that cluster around the warm water discharges of the Florida Power & Light plant.
The National Marine Fisheries Service was particularly critical, saying the project would destroy an extensive stand of coral reefs, make it more difficult for threatened Elkhorn and Staghorn corals to reproduce.