PortMiami’s Deep Dredge project entered a new phase with commencement in late November of the actual dredging that will deepen the port’s main harbor channel to a depth of 50 feet.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is managing the project that will be completed in approximately 18 months at the same time that the expanded Panama Canal is scheduled to open. Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company LLC, the selected contractor for the project, began mobilizing its dredging equipment, including the hopper dredge, Terrapin Island, which has commenced dredging operations in the port’s Outer Channel.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez called the startup of the dredge a “major milestone” for not only PortMiami, but all of Florida which will benefit from increased trade opportunities once the expanded Panama Canal opens in 2015. “PortMiami will be the closest U.S. port to the Panama Canal able to accommodate the mega-size cargo vessels that require a 50 foot depth when at full capacity,” Gimenez said. “New trade opportunities translate into new jobs — the Deep Dredge will create thousands of permanent and well-paying jobs throughout the region.”
PortMiami director Bill Johnson credited Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the state legislature for moving the Deep Dredge project forward. The state is contributing $112 million to funding the $220 million project while Miami-Dade County’s share totals $108 million.
“PortMiami will be big ship ready when the expanded Panama Canal opens in less than two years,” Johnson said. “The importance of the dredging project cannot be overstated.”
Johnson said this is the first time that non-federal dollars are funding a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project.
“We are grateful to the vision of our state and local leaders in moving this critical infrastructure improvement project forward,” Johnson said. “The investment in the Deep Dredge will pay dividends in years to come — making Florida an even more powerful player in the global marketplace.”
In addition to the significant economic impact, Johnson noted that the dredging project will adhere to the highest environmental standards.
The project includes the restoration of more than 16 acres of seagrass in Biscayne Bay and the creation of nine acres of artificial reef. In order to minimize impact on existing resources, the port’s mitigation measures include the relocation of hard coral colonies. Additionally, divers will be onsite to monitor natural resources for turbidity and sedimentation effects before and during all dredging activities.
The excavation will result in the removal of approximately 2.1 million cubic yards of material. Materials not used to create the environmental mitigation sites will be transported to the Ocean Dredged Material Disposal site.
Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners chair Rebeca Sosa called the Deep Dredge one of the most important projects in the Port’s history.
“PortMiami, already known worldwide as the Gateway to the Americas, is well-positioned to capture new trade opportunities especially with ever-growing Asian markets,” Sosa said.
Miami-Dade County Commission vice chair Lynda Bell, who heads the Commission Committee that oversees the seaport, also called the Deep Dredge an important economic catalyst. “PortMiami is South Florida’s second largest economic engine after Miami International Airport,” Bell said. “The dredging project will ensure that our seaport remains competitive in the global marketplace.” PortMiami is among America’s busiest ports and recognized across the globe with the dual distinction of being the Cruise Capital of the World and the Cargo Gateway of the Americas. PortMiami contributes more than $27 billion annually to the South Florida economy and helps provide direct and indirect employment for more than 207,000. For more information, visit online at www.miamidade.gov/portmiami.