Rogue Contractor Dumps Tunnel Fill In Wetlands

Port of Miami tunnel project dumping damages sensitive wetlands and subsequently kills 40 mangrove trees

By Janie Campbell
|  Saturday, Mar 12, 2011  |  Updated 2:30 PM EDT
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Fragile wetlands oft-abused Virginia Key have been damaged by dumping from a rogue subcontractor working the Port of Miami tunnel project.

The tunnel consortium did have permission from the City of Miami to dump fill on Virginia Key's North Point in exchange for using the fill to build a berm that would hide the island's water treatment plant, fast becoming an eyesore to a city set on turning most of Virginia Key into a park.

But the designated area to receive the fill was precisely determined to avoid damaging the sensitive ecology of the wetlands, and it was discovered by the county's Department of Environmental Resources that employees of Bouygues Civil Works had been dumping dirt and rocks into wetlands 80 to 100 yards from intended site.

The damaged wetlands, roughly about half a football field in size according to a Miami Herald report, borders the state-protected Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve. About 40 mangrove trees were also destroyed when heavy dumping equipement became stuck and was hauled out.

A temporary halt has been called to the dumping on Virginia Key, and the site is being excavated while a plan is developed for restoration.

Though DERM approved the fill dumping plan last year for the restricted area, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection says they, too, needed to give permission but plans were never submitted. The DEP is currently investigating the case, and may issue fines of up to $10,000 per day.

Fill dirt was previously used to turn an adjacent area into mountain bike trails. That, too, was regulated to ensure Virginia Key sustained no environmental damage.

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