The council told Port of Palm Beach officials that it cannot support their estimated $2 million feasibility study to deepen and expand the Lake Worth Inlet and Intracoastal to accommodate larger and fully loaded ships.
Council members stated a number of reasons:
- The port so far has been reluctant to sign an agreement that ships larger than 700 ft. would not be allowed at the port.
- Deepening and widening of the inlet may exacerbate a sand transfer problem that already exists because of the inlet.
- Channel expansion might lead to greater storm surge that could flood homes along the Intracoastal.
- Environmental impacts to the Intracoastal and surrounding areas.
- Recreational safety concerns. During the council discussion with Port officials, Susan Markin pointed out that during the recent holiday boat parade that was getting ready to start east of Peanut Island, a huge tanker came into the inlet causing over 30 boats to scramble to get out of the way. The council is concerned that a recreation based inlet and Intracoastal could not handle more industrialization caused by the port.
Palm Beach Town Council and Palm Beach Shores Town Council attended a meeting with the Port and these issues and others were discussed. Out of that meeting the Town of Palm Beach sent a letter to the Port outlining the Palm Beach Town Council's conditions for supporting the feasibility study. They were:
- The plan to widen and deepen the harbor and channel results in no increase in storm surge.
- The Port of Palm Beach District agrees to limit ship size to no more than 700 feet.
- The Port of Palm Beach District agrees to limit the deepening of the harbor and channel to 38 feet.
- The Port of Palm Beach District agrees to work with the Town and the USACE to place all beach compatible sand from dredging of the inlet and turning basin onto Town beaches.
- The Port of Palm Beach District agrees to work with the Town and the USACE relative to the proposed upgrade of the Lake Worth Inlet Sand Transfer Plant.
- The Port of Palm Beach District agrees to extend the feasibility study area southerly to marker R90+400, approximately 16,000 feet south of the Lake Worth Inlet, to include the potential impacted Lake Worth Lagoon and Atlantic Ocean water bodies and shoreline adjacent thereto.
- The Port of Palm Beach District agrees that no blasting will be utilized in the widening and deepening of the channel and harbor.
In a response from the Port, the only issue that the Port Commission agreed to without conditions, further study, or additional input was item 7) No blasting. Based on that the Palm Beach Town Council unanimously decided to not support the feasibility study.
The Port of Palm Beach and US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) propose widening and deepening the inlet and Intracoastal to accommodate bigger and fully loaded ships.
Palm Beachers worry about the growing number of large cargo ships like the one above entering the inlet, bearing left to miss Peanut Island, and turning full circle in front of the Port.
Economic viability, potential environmental damage, and safety for recreational users are concerns expressed by the surrounding communities.