Port of Miami's 2035 Master Plan Includes Manatee-Displacing Mega-Yacht Marina, Hotels

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​If you thought the Port of Miami's deep dredging project was controversial, get a load of this.

Riptide has obtained a copy of the port's 2035 Master Plan. It calls for adding three new cruise ship berths, a mega-yacht marina near downtown, and a seven-story "multi-modal center" with hotels, retail, entertainment, and restaurants.

In other words, the Genting development virus is catching. And, as the Master Plan admits, the port overhaul will tear-up at least 17.5 acres of seagrass and displace endangered manatees.

Environmentalists, who have already said they aren't convinced that the port will fully replace sea grass torn up by the dredge project, say the marina sounds like more of the same.

"They want to build a marina to compete with the city's," says retired boat captain Dan Kipnis, who has petitioned to stop the dredge. "And they are going to destroy the bay to do it."

The master plan will be officially unveiled tomorrow from 8:30 to noon at the port. The preview comes roughly a week after environmentalists sued to stop the port's deep dredging project over concerns that it will irrevocably damage Biscayne Bay's fragile marine ecosystem.

Port officials, who could not be reached for comment late last night, have consistently argued that the deep dredge, $1 billion port tunnel, and other upgrades are necessary to attract that Post-Panamax super freighter ships that will soon flow through the Panama Canal. They say that the port's expansion is more necessary now than ever because of South Florida's high unemployment and weak economy. (Shipping experts have said it's no sure thing that Miami will lure the ships).

But up until now, port officials' public comments have only hinted at the grand ambitions contained in the 2035 Master Plan.

First, the plan calls for adding three new berths for mammoth cruise ships, bringing the port's potential total to nine. This upgrade alone could cost $250 million.

Also in the works is a 3-7 story "multi-modal center" that will include hotels, restaurants, retail, and entertainment.

The center sounds eerily reminiscent of Genting's proposed all-in-one casino. It also poses the same problems. After all, isn't the idea to draw tourists into Miami, not just holed up in one all-inclusive port or casino?

But perhaps the most controversial aspect of the master plan is the call for a mega-yacht marina to compete with that of the City of Miami. According to the port's own development blueprint, it could destroy nearly 18 acres of sea grass and displace marine life, including endangered manatees:

The key element of the Southwest Corner is the introduction of a mega-yacht marina complex that would anchor the

surrounding commercial development and provide for an active area. This would provide a mirror for Bayside and may

enhance development opportunities on the mainland as well over the master plan period. Immediately adjacent to the

marina would be a waterfront promenade with retail and restaurant areas. This development would ideally work in

conjunction with the cruise area to provide early arriving passengers the opportunity to spend quality time in Miami prior

to their cruise.

The Southwest expansion, located in the southwestern corner of the Port adjacent to the current Western Turning Basin, is designed to potentially accommodate a marina for vessels, a ferry, and a transshipment area. Although the exact layout of the expansion has not yet been determined, filling will be required and will consist of approximately 17.51 acres. The chief environmental concern associated with this project is the unavoidable removal of sea grass in the area. These sea grass beds provide low-to-moderate quality habitat for some juvenile fish and invertebrates and are also a staple to the endangered West Indian manatee. Due to the proposed marina on the southwestern side of Dodge Island, the Port will need to conduct mitigation activities for the sea grass that will be displaced.

The section on the marina concludes: "Providing for marina in an existing marine environment with the Port of Miami will mitigate other potential impacts into the future that may occur if such a marina facility would be placed in another location outside of the traditional port area."

Translation: If we don't do it here, someone will do it somewhere else and cause even more damage.

And as we predicted, several Fisher Island condo associations have filed petitions with the state's Department of Environmental Protection challenging the dredge permit. On November 28, the Bayview at Fisher Island Condominium No. 2 and the Fisher Island Community Association filed complaints:

This petition is a request to deny or alter the Department of Environmental Protection's... Draft Consolidated Environmental Resource Permit and Sovereign Submerged Lands Authorization... because the Permit Authorization, as drafted, will permit the Corps to dredge in a manner which will damage and or destroy Association property and interfere with residents' and welfare.

Kipnis and others are meeting this morning at 8:30 a.m. at David's Cafe on Lincoln Road in South Beach to discuss the master plan. You must RSVP to attend the Port of Miami master plan preview tomorrow.

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