City hunts for funds to dredge two polluted Miami River tributaries
By Zachary S. Fagenson
As the City of Miami looks high and low for nearly $20 million to dredge two tributaries of the Miami River and keep their toxic sediment from polluting the recently dredged river, a start date for the project remains elusive.
"We're going to try and pursue funding through the state and we're actually just starting to formulate an action plan and how to go about it," said Alice Bravo, director of capital improvements for the city. "At this point we're going to consider every option, whether it's the Florida Inland Navigation District, [South Florida] Water Management, county state or federal.
But "I wouldn't think that we're going to have any immediate action in the next six months," she added.
Both waterways were found to contain dangerous amount of dioxins — a byproduct of industrial processes that's hazardous to humans and food chains — deep in the riverbeds, making dredging a necessity.
The sediment is so toxic that it has to be carted to a special out-of-state landfill equipped to handle the mess, driving costs up to $20 million.
So far the city has spent about $960,000 engineering the project and has nearly all permits in hand.
The city and the county have been in discussion over the waterways' pollution and how to clean them up since late 2009.
Now begins the lengthy dance to find the money.
The city is looking for the bulk of money from the federal government's Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), a bill last passed in 2007.
The dredging, however, isn't authorized under that bill and was put in line along with countless other projects around the nation, according the city's Intergovernmental Affairs Director Kirk Menendez.
"Until it gets authorized by WRDA the money's on hold," he said. But "word is from Washington they expect a new WRDA bill to be introduced early this upcoming congressional session, in early 2011.
"We will continue with our request and with the hope that the bill is approved so that the city can commence" dredging, he added.
The city will be expected to match the funds received with anything from 15% to 50% of their value.
Meanwhile, at a recent meeting of Miami River Commission its members pushed for the city to look for the money elsewhere, including the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund, which provides funding for hazardous waste cleanup.
Though the site would need to be inspected and classified as a Superfund site before becoming eligible, the city is open to getting the funds from any source willing.
"The delay is getting WRDA authorization and the issue of matching requirements," Mr. Menendez said. "If another avenue can be pursued whereby those hurdles are not issues, then it's obviously something we should follow."
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