As Miami-Dade County moves forward with its $12.6 billion plan to fix the aging water and sewer collection system, Federal Chief Judge Frederico Moreno yesterday awarded a significant victory to the Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper, an environmental group that claims the county proposal does not address sea-level rises and catastrophic storm surge during a major hurricane. Moreno ruled the Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper will be a plaintiff in a lawsuit brought against Miami-Dade by the state and federal environmental protection agencies, as well as the Department of Justice.
The state and federal entities sued Miami-Dade late last year, alleging the county is in violation of the federal Clean Water Act by failing to repair and replace water and sewer plants and thousands of miles of pipes for decades; in some cases as much as half-a-century.
Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper lawyer Albert Slap hailed Moreno's decision since the state and federal environmental protection agencies were trying to stop teh group from being named a plaintiff in the case. (The Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper filed a related separate lawsuit against the county in March).
"The bad news is that the County's zero sea level rise consent decree plan will apparently be brought before the Board of County Commissioners for a vote on May 21st," Slap says. "The County has not heeded any of Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper's nationally-recognized experts, who counsel against parts of the plan and in favor of much more rigorous sea level rise and storm impact studies to inform the county commission's multi-billion dollar capital decisions on its wastewater treatment plants."
The county commission has yet to approve the issuance of $4.25 billion in bonds to finance Miami-Dade's water and sewer renovation plan. At the end of 15 years, the total cost of the project will reach $12.6 billion.
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"This fight is about sound science and engineering and proper planning in light of future climate change impacts on Miami-Dade County," Slap says. "Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper is advocating sound science and engineering in the County's planning process for the required sewer system fix. This has not been done and, apparently, won't be done"
Moreno's decision comes just two days after 13 major environmental groups, including the Tropical Audubon Society and the Sierra Club Miami, sent a letter to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez urging him to address seal level rises and global warming in the water and sewer proposal.
Follow Francisco Alvarado on Twitter: @thefrankness.