Sediment Removal Completes Miami River Water Quality Upgrade

MIAMI, Florida, October 22, 2008 (ENS) – An $88 million effort to improve water quality and navigation on the Miami River is now complete.

The final scoop of sediment came out of the river last week after four years of work by federal, state and local partners, including the South Florida Water Management District.

Water from the river flows directly into Biscayne Bay, a shallow estuary inhabited by diverse plant and animal species that also supports commercial shipping.

“The environment and economy of Miami-Dade County will benefit greatly from completion of this project,” said Eric Buermann, chairman of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board and also the Miami River Commission. “Our many partners pulled together and worked tirelessly to complete this outstanding effort.”

During the dredging process about 750,000 cubic yards of sediment was removed, and pollutants that had long threatened the health of the river were isolated and disposed of safely.

Dredging restored the river to its federally authorized 15-foot depth. The Miami River was last dredged in 1935 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Since then, sediment and debris have built up in the river, impeding shipping traffic around the city of Miami, Florida’s fourth largest port.

The dredging project began in October 2004 and was completed within its five-year timeframe. The South Florida Water Management District contributed $3 million towards the dredging. The Florida Legislature has contributed $28 million, which includes a $10 million appropriation in FY09, spearheaded by Representative David Rivera and Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla.

“This effort is a shining example of a successful partnership that touched many levels of government,” Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said. “The result is that one of our nation’s important waterways is significantly cleaner and our economy has received a major benefit.”

The Florida congressional delegation also was instrumental in supporting the environmental and economic dredging project.

Construction projects along the Miami
River (Photo courtesy Miami River

The Miami River corridor is being redesigned with over 15,000 new residential units and 19 new restaurants under construction or in permitting along the river.

The Miami River Commission’s strategic plan recommends providing additional greenspace where feasible, increasing tree canopy, beautifying beneath bridges, and creation of the Miami River Greenway.

The Greenway is intended to be a destination landscape for tourists and residents, connecting the river’s multi-cultural neighborhoods and parks, and providing public access to the riverfront.

The Miami River Commission has partnered with the City of Miami, Miami-Dade County, the State of Florida, Congress, the Trust for Public Land and the private development community in creating six new waterfront parks as part of the Greenway.

The linear park system follows the course of the river from its mouth in downtown Miami to the Miami International Airport.

Once an important link between the Everglades and Biscayne Bay, the lands bordering the Miami River were damaged by uncontrolled development, industrial pollution and lack of long-range urban policy.

The Greenway conservation effort is a multi-year collaboration of nonprofit organizations, government agencies, business interests and neighborhood groups to restore the river’s ecological and historic heritage while addressing the social and economic needs of the people who live and work in the area.

The Miami River dredging is one of several environmental projects the South Florida Water Management District has supported on Miami waterways, including the Chapman Field restoration project.

This project recently received $580,000 in funding from the district to remove waste and exotic vegetation from a former landfill site and replant that site with mangroves. The removal of waste and the restoration of mangrove habitat will lessen the amount of pollutants and nutrients that enter the bay with stormwater runoff.

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