Letters

Nowhere did Mr. Semple review the analytical documents made available to him by myself or others. Had he examined only one document among them -- the Army Corps' 1993 report, for example -- he would have grasped the bigger picture of the river's need, as opposed to his own need to create a culprit for the sake of his story.

According to the Corps' conclusion and that of its independent consultant, Gulf Engineers, all vessels currently operating on the river "require special handling in navigating the river because the deposited sediments have reduced the effective channel dimensions, which limit the vessel maneuvering area." The report also notes that "the removal of river sediments would allow small ships to more effectively use the Miami River and would impede harmful sediments from being reintroduced into the river and possibly transported to Biscayne Bay." These statements are jarringly inconsistent with Mr. Semple's conclusions.

I was also surprised by Mr. Semple's skepticism about the number of terminals on the river, as I personally spent a morning escorting him waterside past terminal after terminal west of 27th Avenue. If the evidence of his eyes was to be doubted, he might simply have requested a list of facility addresses so he could count the number on his own.

I could detail other problems with the dredging story -- errors, inconsistencies, a smug overconfidence of innuendo -- but unfortunately the harm is already done. And what is the harm if one writer gets a little carried away with his own agenda? In this case the harm is simply that New Times has become an agent impeding progress and eroding public support for a much-needed project -- getting the river cleaned. For a newspaper that likes to paint itself as the conscience of our community, I say shame on you!

Fran Bohnsack, executive director
Miami River Marine Group
Miami

Kirk Semple replies: First things first: Fran Bohnsack works for the Miami River shipping interests. Her job is to publicly represent the industry. My article directly questioned the communal worth of the shipping business on the Miami River and, therefore, indirectly challenged Bohnsack's livelihood. This fact may explain -- but not excuse -- why she has written a letter chock full of malarkey. Point by flawed point:

*Nowhere did I conclude, as Bohnsack asserts, "that only the two biggest shipping companies on the river would benefit" from the river's cleanup. What I did say is that the two largest shipping companies, which account for about 75 percent of the river's business (Bohnsack's estimate), would clearly benefit from dredging. Benefits beyond those, I wrote, are "more questionable."

*Bohnsack claims that "all involved with the Miami River have agreed that it needs to be dredged for both commercial and environmental reasons." Perhaps she wishes this were true, but there is nothing resembling a consensus on this matter. In fact, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers -- the federal agency with the sole responsibility to dredge the river -- has concluded that there is navigational justification for dredging but no environmental justification.

*Bohnsack cites a 1993 Army Corps report that assessed the need and possible methods for dredging the river. She accurately quotes the study, which says that the "current vessel fleet" operating on the river requires special handling owing to sediment buildup. But Bohnsack is being disingenuous in citing this information: She knows that dozens of small commercial vessels -- such as the ubiquitous Haitian scows -- and hundreds of recreational vessels use the river and don't require "special handling," if special handling means the use of tugboats and very restricted hours of entry and exit because of sediment shoaling (the Army Corps' report doesn't define the phrase). The hulls of those smaller boats don't normally scrape bottom or run aground in the sediment. Neither, for that matter, do some larger vessels.

Regardless of the actual number of boats requiring the channel's full navigational depth of fifteen feet -- from my research I calculated about two dozen, all large cargo vessels -- the lion's share of the river's business still belongs to two companies, Antillean Marine and Bernuth Lines, which operate the biggest ships and would be the obvious beneficiaries of a dredged river.

Jen: Get Her Liquored Up
Why would being directed to the bar while her table was being readied come as a surprise to Jen Karetnick at South Beach Brasserie ("A Touch of Brass," March 20)? Empty tables or not, the name of the game is get them to the bar first. In many dining spots that is where the profits are. Two rounds of top-shelf alcohol will more than pay for all the food you eat.

As for the attitude of the hostesses, it's part of the foolish acceptance of too many people in the restaurant field. You spend millions on a dining spot and hire incompetent workers -- who do you blame?

Ronald C. Rickey
Miami Beach

Jen: Watch Her Butcher Snotty Hostess
Someone should tell Jen Karetnick to behave. After literally and premeditatedly butchering the South Beach Brasserie and its five-dollar-per-hour hostess (who must have been fired by now), who would think of having Ms. Karetnick in his or her restaurant again unless she'd be willing to eat cockroach soup and live to write about it?

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