Port Miami in Florida is currently undergoing the dredging of about 6 million cubic yards of ocean floor for the purpose of allowing larger ships to enter as they head toward the expanded Panama Canal, set to be completed in 2015. However, while this is good news for shipping routes, it poses a serious problem for ocean wildlife in the area.
According to a report by the Miami Herald, the dredging project may be smothering coral and threatening other sea creatures, prompting state environmental officials to inspect the work more closely.
Divers have noted that sediment is six inches deep in some areas, and is contributing to the loss of coral on the edges of underwater colonies. In addition, the news source reported that baby coral has been discovered in the area well out of season, suggesting that the dredging project is disrupting the regular reproduction cycle.
"The amount of sediment building up is horrifying," Rachel Silverstein, executive director of the Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper watchdog group, told the news source. "We believe there is a way this project can be done better and that's simply not being done right now."
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has gone so far as to send a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, suggesting that the work is violating state permits.
The Corps told the news source that it is still reviewing the letter. If this project does pose a risk to the area, it will be crucial for stakeholders to mitigate the environmental impact. Environmental consultants can help navigate these waters and minimize potential issues.