A proposed project to widen and deepen the navigation channels of Port Everglades is nearing the end of its study process. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District expects final approval from the Chief of Engineers will be issued on May 29. The project would deepen the 45-foot channel by 10 feet as well as widen and extend the channel to handle large tankers and the deeper-draft post-Panamax cargo ships.
On March 6 the Corps released the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Port Everglades Harbor Navigation Study which was initiated by Broward County Port Everglades Department in 2001. Congress originally authorized the study in 1996.
According to the study the Corps’ recommended plan includes increasing the authorized depth of the Outer Entrance Channel (OEC) from 45 feet to 48 feet (-48 feet MLLW) widening the seaward end from 500 to 800 feet and extending the channel 2200 feet seaward; increasing the authorized depth of the Inner Entrance Channel the Main Turning Basin the Southport Access Channel (SAC) and the Turning Notch from 42 to 48 feet; widen the rectangular shoal region by approximately 300 feet to the southeast of the main turning basin and deepen it to a new authorized depth of 48 feet; widen the SAC referred to as the knuckle by about 250 feet; shift the existing 400-footwide SAC about 65 feet; and widen the SAC by 100 to 130 feet.
The dredged material will potentially be disposed east of the port at the Port Everglades Harbor Ocean Dredged Material Disposal Site (ODMDS) which is proposed for expansion. The Corps spokesperson for the Jacksonville District Susan Jackson said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is working on a study of the site but if the harbor deepening project should get underway before the EPA is done “there is an existing site the Corps can use until the new site is approved.”
Source: Final Environmental Impact Statement Port Everglades Harbor Navigation Study page 32.
Seagrass mangrove reef and hardbottom habitats would be affected by the project requiring mitigation including the construction of new habitats. The Corps would partner with Broward County’s Parks Department to plant new seagrass and mangrove habitats. In addition an estimated 12.57 acres of high profile artificial reef habitat and 6.92 acres of low-profile hardbottom would be built to mitigate for the loss of 10 acres of reef habitat and five acres of hardbottom.
Up to 12235 coral colonies would have to be moved from the impact area to the mitigation sites in advance of dredging.
According to the feasibility study part of the mitigation included removing dredging components from the Dania Cutoff Canal and in wetlands in the Turning Notch. Additionally the proposed width for the OEC was decreased from 1000 feet to 800.
Dredging would use a clamshell or backhoe excavator for portion of the Port Everglades project Depending on the material cutterhead dredges may be used to remove blasted or untreated rock and unconsolidated material as well as large portions of the deepening project. Some amount of pretreatment such as confined underwater blasting may also be needed to break the rock before dredging.
The chief’s report is the last stage in the study process.
Jackson said that once the chief’s report is issued the focus will turn to gaining Congressional authorization and appropriations to move forward with designing and engineering the project. She could not comment on the timing for Congressional authorization and the number of contracts put out for bid and the phasing of contracts would depend on each annual budget for the project.
The current estimated cost of the project is $374 million. The Corps estimates that the project will create a total of 4700 direct and indirect construction jobs.
Port Everglades is a key node for European and South American trades routes. It ranks 12th in the nation in terms of total container tonnage is among the top three cruise ports in the world and is south Florida’s main seaport for receiving petroleum products. The port already handles some deep-draft ships from Europe but they must be lightly loaded which is inefficient and fleets retiring older ships are replacing them with larger ones.