State Contributes 5 Million For River Dredging
Written by Eric Kalis on May 10, 2007
By Eric Kalis
The Miami River dredging project got a financial boost from the Florida Legislature last week that will allow the US Army Corps of Engineers to complete six of nine remaining dredging phases, river officials say.
Legislators awarded $5 million to the corps to help fund the $74 million project that stalled in late 2005 after money ran out. The corps finished six of 15 phases before funds were depleted.
Now the corps has $31 million from state, federal and local sources to resume work this summer on all but three sections of the project, river officials say. Corps contractors are expected to resume dredging in July.
The state contribution came a month after Congress gave the corps $3.5 million. "We are extremely appreciative of the Legislature," said Brett Bibeau, executive director of the Miami River Commission.
With the $5 million, the state is covering a portion of the $26 million the federal government had pledged for the project, river officials say. There is no guarantee that the state will be reimbursed, they say. The state also approved release of the final $800,000 of its original $14 million commitment and gave the river commission $250,000.
River officials say they will try to secure $16 million for the last three sections of dredging while the corps works on phases 7-12. The urgency to finish dredging is intensified by the expiration of the corps’ contract in April 2009, leaving only two federal and state budget cycles to make up the funding difference, Eric Buermann, chairman of the river commission, said last month.
Mr. Buermann, who serves on the Miami-Dade governing board of the South Florida Water Management District, was elected unanimously Monday to replace Irela Bagué, whose three-year term as commission chairman expired.
The current dredging contract is based on 2004 prices per cubic yard removed, river officials say. If the contract expires, a new deal would be much more expensive and require further contributions from federal, state and local officials, Mr. Buermann said.
Project proponents say completing the project would result in a cargo trade boom, commercial and residential development and 350 jobs at the Merrill-Stevens ship-repair yard. Merrill-Stevens plans to build a $55 million facility to repair 250-foot mega-yachts once dredging is completed.
River officials are exploring opportunities for federal grants and asking local officials to pay the remaining federal cost share.
The Miami River is the fourth-busiest seaport in the state in terms of cargo tonnage, river officials say.