Miami River dredging project under budget after a year
By Sherri C. Ranta
The Miami River dredging project, expected to generate $100 million in business for ships using the river over the next 20 years, is under budget and ahead of schedule.
About 2.2 miles of the 5.5-mile river was dredged in the first year of work and the project is about $1.1 million under budget, said Brett Bibeau, managing director of the Miami River Commission. The Army Corps of Engineers had slated four years to do the job.
Dredging began in September 2004 at the salinity dam near Miami International Airport and Northwest 36th Street. Workers are now dredging east of the Northwest 22nd Avenue Bridge, he said.
"If it wasn't for everyone working together in partnership, we wouldn't be at 40% complete in this project," he said, praising the work of the engineering firm, Weston Solutions, and general contractor, Bean Environmental.
The $74 million project, funded primarily by the federal government and 20% by local and state funds, calls for dredging of the federally navigable river channel to 15 feet. Sediment deposits since the 1930s have closed the channel to 9-11 feet.
Mr. Bibeau said officials hope the project can stay on its present pace but don't know when "uncontrollable variables" such as weather could slow work.
Engineers expect that up to 1 million tons of sediment will be removed from the channel. They are finding, Mr. Bibeau said, that they are not removing as much sediment in some sections of the river as they expected, which is creating the cost savings.
Dredging is a multi-step process that involves separating the sediment from other debris and trucking the processed, contaminated sediment to landfills. Shells of old cars, bowling balls, a few handguns and an alligator spine have been recovered. All guns and bones are turned over to police.
Improvements to the Miami River, Mr. Bibeau said, will allow 26 private shipping terminals on the river to expand their business. Currently, shippers must wait for high tide to come and go, and they cannot carry a full load because the river is too shallow. The restrictions will be gone when the work is done.
Miami River boatyards will also benefit, Mr. Bibeau said, because they will be able to service mega-yachts. The large yachts, usually staffed with crews and well-heeled owners, stay an average of five days and spend money at the best hotels and restaurants, according to a third-party study of the tri-county mega-yacht industry.
"It all adds up to $385,000 in direct and indirect impact" for each visit, Mr. Bibeau said.
At least one business along the river, Antillean Marine Shipping Corp., is gearing up for completion of the dredging. The company, citing the project and Antillean's increased garment trade with the Dominican Republic, acquired a new ship designed for the port of the Miami River.
"The mood on the Miami River is one of great optimism," Antillean President Sara Babun said in an August news release. "This is the beginning of the renovation of Antillean's fleet, and we are looking to the acquisition of another new vessel in the near future."