Members of the Civic Association and invited guests gathered to discuss the issues involving the deepening and widening of the Lake Worth Inlet channel and Intracoastal Waterway for Port of Palm Beach operations.
Featured guests were Manuel Almira, Executive Director of the Port; Tom Lundeen, Deputy Port Director of Engineering; Alan Fires, Palm Beach Shores Commissioner; and Tom Bradford, Deputy Town Manager for the Town of Palm Beach. Over 30 association members attended, many that live directly on the Inlet or Intracoastal.
Introductory comments were started by Mr. Almira. He said the Inlet’s depth is now at about 30’ because of sand buildup and the Inlet needs to be dredged. The Port is waiting for the US Army Corps of Engineers to schedule the work. To safely operate the current fleet of ships, the Inlet should be at a depth of 33’ – 35’.
Mr. Almira referenced a meeting between Mr. Lundeen and Mr. Bradford and Palm Beach town staff about the possibility of acquiring a shared floating dredge to keep the inlet clear. They will bring up the idea with the Palm Beach Shore Protection Board at the 2/26/09 meeting.
Mr. Almira pointed out that in the future, with the change in the worldwide shipping industry, there will be more and larger ships coming to the east coast of the United States. The Inlet and Port of Palm Beach can only safely accommodate ships up to 700’. But the new ships can hold more cargo and therefore will draw more water. He said ideally, the Port would want the Inlet depth to be 42’. They also want the channel inside the Inlet to be 50’ wider on each side so the width would go from 400’ to 500’.
Issues discussed were the economics driving the Port and the effects from a deeper and wider channel: possible storm surge danger, more potential beach erosion, increased Intracoastal shoreline maintenance costs by homeowners, the threat to recreation around Peanut Island, environmental impacts, and the potential homeowner property damage from removing rock and reef from the Inlet. Mr. Lundeen said no blasting would be done and that there were other methods to break up the rock and remove it from the Inlet.