Letter to the Editor of the Palm Beach Daily News
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Last Sunday, the Palm Beach Daily News story on the PUD-5 described Palm Beach as “A Town Sharply Divided.”
The Palm Beach Civic Association believes that now is the time for all Palm Beachers to stand united in opposing Port of Palm Beach and Palm Beach Inlet expansion.
The Civic Association has joined with the Florida Wildlife Federation, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Everglades Law Center and others in strongly opposing the deepening and widening of the Palm Beach Inlet.
There is mounting evidence that the $88 million dredging plan to allow port expansion would be harmful and dangerous to Palm Beach and surrounding areas.
Dredging will place large cargo ships within 100 meters of swimming areas on Peanut Island threatening the recreational use of our County’s favorite marine park and endangering swimmers, divers, and operators of small watercraft. Large vessels create a draft suction effect that forces nearby floating objects into the ship’s slipstream—a major catastrophe just waiting to happen.
A larger inlet could increase flood damage during a major storm by allowing more water into the Lake Worth Lagoon and aggravating Palm Beach’s existing flooding problems.
"The higher the water in the lake,” says Palm Beach Town Manager Peter Elwell, “and the longer it stays up before it recedes, the more likely we will have flooding on the island that we cannot prevent because of a change in the water table (Palm Beach Daily News, 2/28/14).”
Town Public Works Director Paul Brazil agrees: "If the [Lake Worth] lagoon water level rises and stays there for an extended period of time, the groundwater table is going to follow and there is nothing we can do to control it (Palm Beach Daily News, 2/28/14).”
Experts also cite the dangers of blasting to excavate a larger ship channel. They caution that dredging and port expansion could ruin the environment.
Florida’s foremost manatee expert, Dr. James Powell, predicts more manatee collisions. Higher frequency of larger ships combined with more cold water flowing through a larger inlet to dilute a warm-water sanctuary could wipe out a significant portion of the 500+ manatees in the harbor.
A biologist hired by the Civic Association warns that dredging would destroy seagrass and reef-like marine habitats that are irreplaceable.
The true purpose behind the dredging project, it seems, is for the Port of Palm Beach to expand and compete for Asian cargo soon to arrive through a widened Panama Canal. Goods would be shipped from Palm Beach to an inland port encouraging more ships and greater industrialization in the heart of a world-renowned tropical paradise.
We urge the Port to abandon this potentially destructive project.
Civic Association Chairman and CEO
Robert J. Holuba
Civic Association Port Committee Chair