The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will conduct a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday to discuss the proposed dredging of the Lake Worth Inlet, which serves as an entrance channel to the Port of Palm Beach.
The meeting at the port’s executive boardroom, 1 East 11th St., Suite 600, Riviera Beach, will begin with an open house session. A presentation on the Lake Worth Inlet Feasibility Study Report and Environmental Impact Statement and official comment period will follow.
Port officials say the channel between the north end of Palm Beach and the south end of Singer Island is not deep or wide enough, which hurts its money-making potential. Peanut Island is within the harbor directly west of the inlet.
The project’s cost is estimated at $100 million, but no funding has been allocated.
Manuel “Manny” Almira, the port’s executive director, said recently that Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, is assisting the port’s effort to seek $75 million from the federal government. About $18 million in state funding would be requested, with about $7 million coming from the port.
“These deficiencies cause the local harbor pilots and the U.S Coast Guard to place restrictions on vessel transit to ensure safety. In turn, these restrictions lead to light loading, tidal delays, and maneuvering difficulties – resulting in economic inefficiencies that translate into costs to the national economy,” Army Corps officials said in a statement.
Palm Beach Mayor Gail Coniglio said Monday she has asked the town council to authorize hiring an in-depth consultant to analyze the report so the town can respond before the June 3 commenting deadline.
“There will be noise. There have been sentiments raised by the residents, particularly in the north end,” Coniglio said. “It is an environmental concern. We still believe that entire part of the channel should be a passive recreational area.”
If approved, the project could take about three years to complete. About 2 million cubic yards of material would be dredged.
The tentative plan proposes the following: deepen the entrance channel from 35 to 41 feet and widen from 400 to 440-460 feet, plus a southern approach flare; deepen the inner channel from 33 to 39-feet and widen from 300 to 450-feet; deepen the main turning basin from 33 feet to 39 feet and extend the southern boundary of the turning basin an additional 150 feet.
About 4.5 acres of seagrass habitat and 4.9 acres of hardbottom habitat would be affected. However, 8.25 to 11.25 acres of seagrass mitigation and 4.9 to 9.8 acres of hardbottom mitigation are under negotiation.
The project is being coordinated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Services and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, as well as other federal, state and local agencies.
Lake Worth Inlet has not had a federal project in more than 50 years, the Army Corps said. In 1992 the port was authorized to deepen the northern side of the basin from 25 feet to 33 feet.
The port and its tenants contribute $260 million in business revenue and $12 million in state and federal taxes. More than $7 billion worth of commodities move through the port each year, and approximately 2,400 people are employed directly and indirectly because of the port, the draft report states.
The 182-page report was recently published in the Federal Register, beginning a 45-day public review and comment period.
A copy of the DEIS can be viewed at the following link: http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Portals/44/docs/Planning/EnvironmentalBranch/EnvironmentalDocs/LWI_01_Draft%20_Feasibility_EIS_April_2013.pdf
About the meeting
When: 5:30 p.m. Thursday
Why: To discuss the proposed dredging of the Lake Worth Inle
Where: Port of Palm Beach’s executive boardroom, 1 East 11th St., Suite 600, Riviera Beach