Sediment Removal Improves Miami River Water Quality

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.

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, including Senator Bill Nelson and Senator Mel Martinez, along with Congressman Kendrick Meek, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, also played instrumental roles in supporting the environmental and economic dredging project.

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

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.

The district also provided $875,000 in funding for a wetland restoration project on Virginia Key. Cleanup of the creeks and ponds will improve the water quality of tidal areas that flow into Biscayne Bay.

{Photo: New restaurants and residences are going up along a cleaned Miami River. (Photo courtesy Miami River Commission)}

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