Environmentalists challenge plans for expanded Miami port

According to an article in the Miami Herald, a conflict has arisen between those who want to expand the Port of Miami for economic development, in anticipation of an expanded Panama Canal, and environmentalists and the tourism industry, who fear it could harm sea life and water quality.

Miami is just one of the US ports that is eager to compete for larger ships when the Canal expansion is slated to be completed in 2014.

Environmentalists on Monday challenged a project to dredge, widen and deepen Miami’s port, saying the plans threaten water quality, coral reefs and marine life.

The petition was filed on the cut-off day for contesting the project whose backers insist could be an economic boon once a widening of the Panama Canal is finished and brings larger freighters north….

Miami’s harbor is adjacent to Biscayne Bay. The waters are home to manatees, dolphins, sea turtles and whales and draw threatened and endangered birds. They’re also bountiful fishing sites, with shrimp, stone crabs, lobsters, snapper and grouper among other catches.

Opponents of the dredging say it could affect all such sea life. And mindful the project is being billed as a creator of jobs in a state that desperately needs them, the petitioners say it could threaten tourism, Florida’s most important industry.