A plan to deepen and widen Florida’s Port Everglades has won a key federal approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The approval clears the way for the port to seek Congressional funding for a project that would generate thousands of jobs and maintain the region’s leading position in international trade.
The project is designed to enable safe passage of deep draft Post-Panamax cargo ships, which are too large to fit through today’s Panama Canal. Port Everglades already handles Post-Panamax ships from Europe and South America, but the ships must be lightly loaded, which is inefficient, especially as older fleets are being replaced with much larger ships and the Panama Canal is being expanded.
Main features of the project are to deepen the main navigational channels from 42 feet to 48 feet (plus 1-foot required and another 1-foot allowable overdepth for a total of 50 feet), and to deepen and widen the Entrance Channel and parts of the Intracoastal Waterway so that cargo ships can pass safely by docked cruise ships.
“Port Everglades is a giant economic engine for South Florida,” said U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel. “The port must modernize and expand or the new current day cargo ships will pass us by – taking with them thousands of new jobs and over $30 million of economic impact each year.”
The project is anticipated to create an estimated 4,700 total construction jobs and nearly 1,500 permanent direct jobs locally from the additional cargo capacity. The estimated cost is $374 million which will be paid with Port Everglades revenue generated through port user fees, federal appropriations and state grants. No local property taxes will be used for this project because Port Everglades is a self-funded enterprise of Broward County.
The project study received Congressional authorization in 1996. The signed and approved Chief’s Report now allows Port Everglades to move forward to the Pre-Construction Engineering and Design phase.
A key environmental component of the approved plan includes planting approximately 103,000 new nursery-raised corals in 18 acres of existing reef areas, and relocating approximately 11,500 existing corals to create two acres of artificial reef, and create three acres of artificial reef habitat for natural recruitment which will replace nearly 15 acres of existing hard-bottom reef habitat. At Broward County’s recommendation, the Corps and the National Marine Fisheries Services developed a “blended” plan that includes traditional and more innovative approaches to environmental mitigation.
“The natural underwater environment is a priority for Port Everglades. It is critical to the Port that the mitigation plan include progressive approaches coupled with those that have a proven track record for replenishing and enhancing sensitive reef habitat,” said Port Everglades Chief Executive & Port Director Steven Cernak. “I want to credit the Corps, the National Marine Fisheries Service and a multitude of environmental organizations for going back to the drawing board several times to develop an innovative approach to reef mitigation that will put Broward County in the forefront of environmental research and development.”
At the crossroads of north-south and east-west trade, Broward County’s Port Everglades is Florida’s leading container port, handling more than one million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units, the industry standard measurement for container volumes) and serving as a gateway to Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia.