Tallahassee — A recent state authorization for large-scale beach “renourishment” projects in Broward County will bury and destroy hundreds of acres of reef and essential fish habitats, according to a request filed by Cry of the Water and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) seeking immediate federal review. This new beach project reauthorization removes safeguards designed to minimize direct damage (burial) to nearshore reefs and hardbottom and secondary impacts from chronic silt, sediment and turbidity that suffocate the reefs.
On January 31, 2014, the Florida, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a 15-year open-ended authorization to Broward County to initiate beach renourishment activities between Hillsboro Inlet and Port Everglades. This new permit authorizes dredging and truck hauling operations that would result in the placement of 1.2 million cubic yards of sand, a project that would dramatically increase the risks to nearshore habitats, by –
- Eliminating biological monitoring requirements and weakening other protections afforded reefs and other hardbottom habitats;
- Burying and smothering nearshore reefs and essential fish habitats;
- Using the same modeling and methods to predict impacts that have proven to be inaccurate and inadequate in the past to stop reef burial; and
- Slating projects for sections of Ft. Lauderdale that have never had a prior beach project. As a result, the best nearshore reefs in Florida would be jeopardized.
“Florida is taking a giant step backward in terms of maintaining healthy reefs and essential fish habitats, we must learn from the mistakes and destruction of past beach projects,” said Dan Clark of Cry of the Water, pointing out that a recently constructed US Army Corps Civil Works project placed 120,000 cubic yards of sand on the beaches of Pompano and Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, and that local divers are now reporting the burial of nearshore reefs and hardbottom in Pompano Beach. This Army Corps project used the same sand source as Broward County proposes to use. This is particularly alarming since the Broward project would place 1.2 million cubic yards of sand, 10 times the amount as the Army Corps placed.
Florida DEP issued this permit without undergoing required consultation with federal agencies, such as the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Marine Fisheries Service or requiring an Environmental Impact Statement. The groups are asking the Corps to step in and oversee a full environmental review. They are also seeking an assessment of the cumulative impacts not only of past projects but the secondary effects of chronic silt buildup and increased water turbidity not just direct burial from new projects.
“It is stunning how little actual environmental review was done by a an agency named the Department of Environmental Protection,” stated Florida PEER Director Jerry Phillips, a former DEP enforcement attorney, noting that many of the beaches slated for sand supplementation are private and not open to the public. “Florida is hell-bent on a course to wipe out its reefs in its misguided and ultimately fruitless attempt to prop up beachfront condominium values in the face of sea-level rise.”
View videos by local divers showing reefs drowned by sand
Learn more about this issue at www.cryofthewater.com