The Surfrider Foundation is deeply concerned about the environmental and recreational impacts of the proposed widening and deepening of the Port of Palm Beach.
There has been startlingly little discussion of potential damages to recreators and recreational resources impacted by the Port of Palm Beach expansion. The EIS only cursorily considers recreational impacts to boaters and some diving/swimming activities. In fact, the proposed expansion would allow ships to come within 100 meters of swimming areas on Peanut Island. Additionally, this areais home to some of the most treasured surf breaks in Florida. The Port of Palm Beach is bordered by Pumphouse and Reef Road, two iconic surf breaks that attract professional and amateur surfers from around the world. At the very least, the potential impacts to these renowned sites warrant study and careful review.
The impacted area is also one of the most critical spawning areas for several species of highly coveted gamefish, including snook. According to the Florida Ocean Alliance’s most recent report, “Ocean-oriented tourism accounted for the largest contribution by Florida’s ocean resources to the state economy, amounting to 8.0 billion in 2011.” They also note that ocean-oriented recreation contributed 1,089.8 billion to gross regional product in 2011.1
This project will permanently remove 4.5 acres of seagrass. Additionally, any area that is deepened will be unable to recolonize seagrass. Seagrasses and nearshore hardbottom provide critical habitat and spawning grounds for a number of species. This project also has the potential to impact listed species including: green turtle, loggerhead, Kemp’s ridley, humpback whales, sperm whales, etc. All of the listed species not only have the potential to impacted by the actual blasting, but also by the indirect impacts to seagrass, water quality, and beach nesting habitat.
Without delving into the potential 4-inch increase in storm surge and the resulting implications for flooding, erosion and public safety, we question the necessity of this project. With Port Everglades so nearby, why incur these potentially catastrophic environmental and recreational impacts? We hope the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will carefully consider this proposal’s potential impacts to our environment, endangered species, recreators, and citizens. Please take action to stop this ill-conceived port expansion.
1Florida Ocean Alliance, “Florida’s Oceans and Coasts: An Economic and Cluster Analysis”. May 2013